How do those great air to air shots of planes get taken?
Formation flying is dangerous. The closer the planes the harder & more dangerous to do.
It is hard work & if it is close, that much harder so why would they do it real close just to go somewhere?
Most formations you see that are not part of something special like an airshow, are really sort of loose, & the longer the flight, the looser they will set up just for safety.
I have never been a pilot in the military ( legally ) but in many years of civilian flying, I have been in many tight formation flights. Wings so close to the other plane that it is in between the other planes wing & propeller tight.
Dangerous & very hard work.
It has been a long time since this happened. I was flying pipeline in this one company that had 3 almost identical airplanes. We flew off of a controlled airport with radar & approach control, was an international airport. The full ‘Monty.’
The tower & approach control people knew us very well, knew what we could do & we were never cranky about extending patterns to allow other plane in, or argue about directions or clearances etc… So once in a while they would do something nice for us.
Several times when the airport was not too busy, & we were all leaving at the same time, we would contact the tower one after the other saying we were ready to go. They would ask if we wanted to go all together? “Affirmative.” one of us would say. ( Yea Haw!!! under our breath ) (Really not good to do in just that way without paper work etc., so they were going out on a limb for us which made us all the more ‘good guys’ in the daily mess that they usually had to handle with normal traffic. )
The tower would come back with XXXXX* flight of three, cleared for takeoff with a right turn to 235 degrees as soon as possible. ( always the direction we needed to get to the start of our local lines ) This was way fun for us. We would take off so tight that we had wing overlap, would fly at about 40’ & down the runway just a bit to where there was a good gap between two hangers, formation turn to 235º with a slow climb holding as much speed as we could ( C-150’s so it was not that impressive Bawahahaha ) as we left the airport traffic area. Did a ‘flight’ contact with Departure control who would let us descend to work altitude in a few miles with a “Good Day XXXXX.”
Night formation flying is much harder and without special training, a thing most civilians pilots should really stay away from.
If you can see the aircraft lights, you should be able to hear the engine sounds & with their apparent speed, probably tell if they were jets, piston engines or helicopters. ( 99% they are military if it is dark. )
Faster, heavier & being identical aircraft make it some what easier, but it should not be done without training and practice.