I Learned Formation Flying with Chuck Yeager Before I Learned to Land

June 11th, 2013

I learned to fly formation before I learned to land.

One just never knows when one will be called on to fly formation…

Although, in all those 70’s airplane disaster movies, I don’t remember in the panic anyone on the plane in distress ever yelling: Can anyone fly formation? It was always: Is there a doctor or Can anyone fly the plane to land it?

We had been invited to a huge July 4th party, on Lake “Owl Manure”. Huh? I thought, is it going to smell terribly? Why would they name a lake Owl Manure otherwise? To keep people away & overbuilding?

Four people were going so we flew in 2 two-seater little airplanes,

Gen Y thought it a good idea to use this flight to start teaching me to fly formation.

So after Gen Y took off 1st, then “jumped” our friend who had taken off 2nd (which is always just…so cool!), we flew our friend’s wing.

Before handing me the stick, Gen Yeager set us up in perfect formation on our friend’s wing and instructed: Now keep the wingtip lined up to the spinner. He set me up so all I had  to do was just hold it there re the other plane. Mmm hmm.

I did. However apparently there was a catch.

Gen Y: You’re getting out of formation!

Me: No, I’m not. I’ve got the wingtip lined up on the spinner.

Gen Y: Yeah, but you’re 100 yards away. We started at 15 yards.

If I had known then what I know now, I should have come back with: “He yawed back & forth.” (which means spread out).

But the truth was, at 15 yards, not very close for an experienced formation pilot like CY, was VERY CLOSE for a newbie – which I was…even though I knew CY was on top of it – he would have grabbed the stick if I had headed toward danger.

Gen Y set me up again. This time I stayed pretty tight but altitude maintenance became an issue:

Me: Gosh. I wish he’d fly straight & level. He’s all over the place! (meaning constant altitude changes). (Lead had never flown formation either).

I was and am such a source of amusement for CY.

CY replied: HE’S not.

Of course it was me overreacting to lead’s slight changes. :-)

I slowly got the hang of even small corrections – a bit like sailboat racing – can be HUGE.


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