View Full Version : V formation

The Juggernaut
10-28-2001, 07:45 PM
When jet fighters fly in a v, what is the significance, if any, to the extra plane on one side?

10-28-2001, 08:06 PM
Geese also fly in a V formation. The lead goose or aircraft needs to work a little bit harder, but the geese on the trailing edge gets to travel in the wake of the lead goose and doesn't have to work as hard to fly. They take turns being in the lead. I presume fighters do it for the same reason, to save fuel.

10-28-2001, 08:15 PM
Two of the primary reasons that a wingman will fly back and to the side of the leader is that:

1) They are basically playing follow the leader, with one navigating and the other staying on his wing. So line abreast wouldn't work.

2) Directly behind wouldn't very well work either, as there'd be a constant buffet due to turbulence created by the lead plane. ALSO, hand signals are often used when radio silence has to be imposed, and being alongside allows the wingman to see those signals.

10-28-2001, 08:16 PM
nope theres not significance to the 'extra' plane, its just an even number of aircraft flying in a formation that is only symetrical if there is an odd number.

there is, however, significance to a V formation with an aircarft missng in the middle of it (usually to the right of the lead plane). this is done to mourn and recognize a death.

Dr. Lao
10-28-2001, 08:18 PM
I think the extra plane is there because fighter planes usually fly in pairs: lead and wingman. If any number of pairs want to form a V then one leg must be longer than the other.

DPWhite: For airplanes, I doubt there is any fuel savings when flying in a V. The V formation simply gives good visibilty, so you can look ahead and see where you are going while keeping an eye on the plane you are following.

don't ask
10-28-2001, 08:24 PM
The finger four formation (http://www.raf303.org/308/tactics/fingerfour.htm) is a little more involved than just chance.

10-28-2001, 08:35 PM
Actually, Dr Lao/DP White there is a slight fuel savings depending on how close you fly to the other aircraft. I don't think this contradicts my previous post because the fuel savings is not why the fighter pilots do it.

The fuel savings on a gas-guzzling fighter would be pretty insignificant, but I remember reading an article a year or so ago that talked about instead of making larger commercial airliners, airlines were toying with the idea of having two of them fly in close formation, thereby holding twice as many passengers and also saving some fuel, enough to be significant on a cross-country or transoceanic flight.

10-28-2001, 08:59 PM
In auto and bicycle racing (foot races too) it is common to follow the leader to save fuel/energy and is called drafting.

I suppose it is silly to expect people who have their fuel paid for by the government to bother having fuel use as a motive.

10-28-2001, 09:23 PM
In order to obtain fuel savings from formation flying, you'd have to be flying dangerously close at all times. It would be pretty silly to look for savings in manuevers that could cost one or more aircraft worth 10s of millions of dollars at the first slip of attention.

Fighter aircraft fly in two plane units: Leader and wingman. If they fly abrest, they could foul each other if called to manuever suddenly, and the wingman can't readily manuever to keep the leader's "six" clear. When a flight of four travel together, they do so in a "finger four" formation (as two two-ship elements), first develped by the RAF in WWII. This provides mutual support, while preserving the range of options for manuever for each aircraft. When going from place to place in peaceful conditions, the formation is kept fairly tight. When things get hot, the formation is opened up to provide more room for manuever, and to make any missile that misses one aircraft less likely to home on the other.

Hold your hand up in front of you, back towards your face. Look at your fingernails (discount your thumb). Each fingernail represents an aircraft. Note that your second finger is the longest, placing that plane out front. Your index finger is the lead aircraft's wingman. Your ring finger is the lead plane of the second element, while your pinky is the second element's wingman. You'll see that the fomation is asymetrical, but is compact enough for each pilot to be able to check his wingman's tail, without having to swivel his head 180 degrees, and preserves the ability to manuever.