Formation flying: The art and precision

by | Jul 2, 2024

Formation flying is one of the most visually striking and technically demanding aspects of aviation. It requires precise coordination, exceptional skill, and unwavering trust between pilots. At Ultimate High, we specialise in providing comprehensive training in formation flying, enabling pilots to experience the thrill and mastery of this unique discipline.


The essence of formation flying

Formation flying involves multiple aircraft flying in close proximity, manoeuvring as a single unit. This type of flying is commonly associated with military operations, air shows, and ceremonial flypasts, but it also has practical applications in civil aviation.

The primary challenge of formation flying lies in maintaining relative position to the other aircraft. Pilots must have an acute sense of spatial awareness, be able to make rapid, precise adjustments, and communicate effectively with their wingmen. This demands rigorous training and a high degree of trust among the formation members.


Key principles

  • Leadership and followership: Every formation has a lead aircraft and one or more wingmen. The lead pilot is responsible for navigation and setting the pace, while the wingmen maintain their positions relative to the lead.
  • Positioning and spacing: Maintaining consistent positioning and spacing is crucial for safety and performance. Pilots use visual references and cues to ensure they remain in the correct formation.
  • Communication: Clear and concise communication is vital. Pilots use standardised signals and radio calls to coordinate manoeuvres and ensure the formation operates smoothly.
  • Discipline and focus: Formation flying requires unwavering concentration and discipline. Pilots must stay focused and responsive to the movements of the lead aircraft and any changes in the environment.



  • Enhanced situational awareness: Flying in formation hones a pilot’s ability to maintain spatial awareness and anticipate the actions of other aircraft.
  • Improved precision and control: The discipline of formation flying enhances a pilot’s overall control and precision, translating to better handling in solo flight as well.
  • Teamwork and trust: Formation flying fosters a deep sense of camaraderie and trust among pilots, as they rely on each other to maintain safety and performance.


Formation flying at Ultimate High

At Ultimate High, our training is designed to provide pilots with the skills and confidence needed to excel in this demanding discipline. Our training programmes are suitable for both novice pilots and those with previous formation flying experience.

Our team of experienced ex-military instructors offers a range of training options, from introductory sessions to advanced courses. Each training session is tailored to the individual needs of the pilot, ensuring a personalised and effective learning experience.

Pilots at Ultimate High benefit from our state-of-the-art facilities and our commitment to safety and excellence. Our formation flying courses not only teach the technical skills required but also instil the discipline and confidence necessary for successful formation flight.

Whether you are looking to enhance your aviation skills, prepare for a specific mission, or simply experience the thrill of formation flying, Ultimate High has the expertise and resources to help you achieve your goals.

Join us at Ultimate High and discover the art and precision of this discipline. Learn more about our training programmes and how we can support your journey to becoming a skilled and confident formation pilot.


author avatar
Neil Jones Pilot
Neil started his flying career flying Sea King helicopters with the Fleet Air Arm, which included a tour in the Falklands. He then moved onto the Sea Harrier, based on the Ark Royal, and also flew the Hunter and instructed on Hawk aircraft whilst with the Navy. Neil was at Virgin for 24 years flying the Airbus A320, 330 & 340 and was also a Training Captain. ‘Jonesy’ is one of Ultimate High’s most experienced Flight Experience and Safety pilots and particularly enjoys flying extreme aerobatics in the Extra 300.