I would really like to continue honing my formation flying skills, but I need human wingmen to do so - those DCS World AI make awful flight leads!
I happen to know the principles of close formation flying backwards and forwards, but only by what I’ve read and watched about it. I need a lot more practice in the (virtual) cockpit, and human wingman to provide critical constructive feedback.
This means a lot of what some people consider boring “aerobatics”-style flying, practicing cross-unders, lost wingman procedures, pitchouts, circular rejoins, and whatnot, but this basic training helps hone muscle memory and grows confidence in aircraft handling. It also has a dramatic effect on maintaining aerial refueling and visualizing the merge in dogfights.
If there are folks interested in learning with me, I’ll be on Tuesday night, about 8pm Mountain Standard Time (-7 UTC) and will be flying the DCS World A-10C. I can fly either 1.2 or 1.5. I’m on the fence about trying to start practicing in 2.0 just yet. “Alpha” labels frighten me.
I will definitely be there on nights that I am not working. I will probably jump on around 8:30 - 9 eastern as that is when my kids go to bed. I am willing to ask and answer questions and generally help out any way I can leading up to and including the event.
In this mission you are air-spawned off the wing of an AI A-10C that is flying a rectangular route (WPs 0 through 3) at a constant altitude and airspeed. The rectangle is 20 NM by 10 NM so you have plenty of time between waypoints to practice station keeping and cross unders. The AI will continue to fly this rectangle in a loop until it is bingo fuel.
I strongly recommend reading up on formation flying before attempting it here. I’m working on a little “teach yourself” guide, but, in the meantime, here are some pointers:
For close fingertip formation, aim for about 45° behind the lead with some wingtip separation and stack down. See the sight picture below to see what Lead’s aircraft should look like when you are in position.
When joining up, first get on the bearing line, then slowly close distance until you’re in position.
You are never in formation. You are always making corrections to get into formation.
Anticipate power and control input changes before you need them so you are always making small corrections, not large ones.
Smooth and steady on the inputs. Large, jerky motions scare Lead and just makes your position problem worse.
Tiny changes in throttle make big differences, but it takes time to see the effect. Be steady and patient, but stay on top of it before you get far out of position.
Behind too far ahead (aka “acute”) is much more dangerous than behind too far behind (aka “sucked”). Don’t do either.
NEVER turn belly up to Lead!
If the only way to stop an overrun is to turn belly up to Lead, DON’T! Descend and coast under Lead, slow down and fall back behind Lead, then creep back up into position.
You are making rate changes with your controls, not position changes. If you find yourself wildly oscillating (up/down, left/right, or back/forth), STOP! First make the rate of change stop, then slowly scoot into position.
Work on station keeping first, then try cross unders to switch sides.
Note: The AI plane flies straight and level nicely, but makes some wicked hard turns. Watch your TAD and don’t get caught too close on the inside of a turn!
Here’s the sight picture you want to maintain in close formation: wingtip on the ejection diamond for the 45° bearing line and edge of the near engine exhaust lined up with the far engine cowling to triangulate into position.