20 January 2009

Formation flying

January 2009 For several months, I had been wanting to undergo formation flight training. But a combination of being too busy, poor flying weather and baulking at the proposed 0700 starts from Camden, delayed the training.

But finally, on 18 January, the weather improved and the instructor conducting the training, Niall, agreed to a more reasonable start time in the late morning!

For my first sortie, Steve flew my beast, VH-DZY, while I flew Niall's and Doug's Yak-52 (VH-VHV) with Niall in the back seat.

Although I had done my Yak conversion training in a 52 with Steve, a year had since passed. The 52's cockpit layout is somewhat different to that of a 50. So I had to get re-acquainted with switches and instruments in unfamiliar places.

We adopted a streaming takeoff in which Steve, as the formation leader, took off first; followed by me four seconds later. Then the hard workout started.

With Niall coaching me, I manoeuvered the 52 into line astern, and right/left echelon positions. But not quickly nor closely enough apparently.

For the first half hour or so, the cockpit conversation between Niall and I consisted of him cajoling me with the words, "closer...not close enough...get right in..."

Over that same half an hour, I was muttering, "you want me to do WHAT and then WHAT??" as I marvelled at the tiny spatters of engine oil on the 50's aft fuselage and tail feathers.

Why, I could even see the grease smeared around the tailwheel strut and the smashed insects on the leading edge of the horizontal fins, for heaven's sake!

And while Niall kept pushing the stick towards the 50, to get in closer, I was pushing the stick in exactly the opposite direction in an attempt to avoid scratching the 50's paintwork with the 52's wing tip or propeller!

At some point past the halfway mark in the sortie, Niall had stopped his insane urgings for me to get closer. He may have realised that it was futile for him to try overcoming my instinct for self-preservation (and preservation of my beloved 50).

Or I had finally succumbed to his cajoling to hold a position sufficiently close to conduct an in-flight inspection of every rivet and screw on the 50!

After an hour of a busy workout, I called time and Steve took our formation back for a run and break recovery to Camden.

My T-shirt and flight suit were soaked when I climbed out of the 52.

I must hasten to add that the water was lost through sweating and not from a bladder reacting badly to flying so close to another aircraft!

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