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Old 06-27-2020, 07:04 PM   #1  
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Default No formation landings in UPT

...due to fallout from the Vance tragedy.

https://www.airforcemag.com/air-forc...9-fatal-crash/

Not exactly sure how I feel about this. It probably makes sense, but just sticks in my craw somehow.
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Old 06-28-2020, 03:43 AM   #2  
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Personally, I liked doing them. On a fighter forum, guys say they are prohibited in the F-22 and F-35, so why learn it?

On the other hand, lots of other guys had anecdotal stories (in both peacetime and combat) of guys being led down after major damage or systems failures.

Even if no longer allowed in those two jets, I still feel some of the skills learned in form landings translated to better ability in close formation (in general) that could have uses in combat...say, AAR, or the least-familiar feel for the maneuvering dynamics of the jet: high AoA at low speeds (knife-fight in a phone-booth BFM; vertical scissors, etc).

In my view, there was a better way to teach the landings. I was taught as a student, and years later as an IP, I taught the same mantra: to focus on Lead, the wing leading-edge, and the “stab bolt” (which isn’t a bolt at all...) as primary, and “check the runway” periodically; more so when you got closer to touchdown.

I hit upon an idea during my last 1000 hours of 4000 in the T-38. I’d tell my student: “Would it bother you to fly a landing to the outside runway, while another jet was landing on the Center runway?” They’d say “Umm...no!!” I’d continue: “what if I started moving the runways closer together?” They’d give me the RCA Victor dog-look.

“What if the parallels were only 500 ft apart? 250? 75?”

”Make your side of the runway your primary reference, and pretend Lead is another jet landing on a parallel runway, 75 ft away. While flying to your runway, pretend you are flying off of him...and respect him if he does something abrupt or stupid. But make the RUNWAY the primary reference, and it will make flying off of him easier.”

The difference was incredible. Instead of wild phugoid oscillations, they usually were fairly stable.

I only wish I had thought of it when I was flying the F-4!!
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Old 06-28-2020, 05:54 AM   #3  
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Training on formation approaches still has some use... formation landings not so much.
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Old 06-28-2020, 05:59 AM   #4  
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Originally Posted by Excargodog View Post
...due to fallout from the Vance tragedy.

https://www.airforcemag.com/air-forc...9-fatal-crash/

Not exactly sure how I feel about this. It probably makes sense, but just sticks in my craw somehow.
Same here. I get lessons learned and all, like we all do. But with this reasoning/action, one could say accidents happen flying, so lets just stop flying. Form landings build skill and confidence and are a tool to have in your bag if things go sideways. I think its a mistake to remove it from the syllabus.
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Old 06-28-2020, 06:24 AM   #5  
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This is just fall out from our ever so growing risk adverse culture and it is now making it into our military and affecting our combat capability.
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Old 06-28-2020, 07:31 AM   #6  
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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Agreed
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:45 PM   #7  
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It's a simple risk vs reward. We haven't really done them in the CAF in nearly a decade. In my decade and a half of flying fighters, I have yet to see a situation (as a pilot/SOF/OPS SUP) that required a form landing. I've only seen one that required even a form low approach. Honestly, I think we'd have to have a failure of multiple systems to even get me to a point where I'd need to lead someone through the weather...and then I'd rather not be landing next to a guy with an EP and possibly bombs onboard. I know the old guys love to talk about the time the weather was socked in for 1000 miles and they lost their radio AND their Tacan...flew the triangle and then were saved by a form landing off a PAR. This could have been solved by a form low approach as well...Ya ya, I know, we're suddenly bingo minus 5...I have 100% we could make it happen. In truth, stuff just doesn't fail like it used to. I can count on one hand how many times I've had a radio failure or Tacan failure (Combined) and none were ever at the same time. Even at that, I could still shoot an ILS off a Nav point if needed AND I have 2 (soon to be 3) radios.

Others talk about how they can get guys airborne faster should you have to do a mass scramble. First off, when has that ever happened and/or how likely is that to ever happen? Second, I seriously question that it's faster with form TO. I think guys underestimate how long it takes to pull two jets onto the runway, runup and release brakes. I'd love to line up 40 fighters on one runway at Nellis and 40 on the other side. Once side does formation takeoffs, while the other does 10 or 15 second rolling...I'm fairly certain I know which side would have 40 fighters off the ground quicker. Mass recoveries in IMC, then I can maybe see your point. Again, how likely is that? Even in Vietnam, how many fighters took off form the same base and how many showed back up to the home drone at the same time?

In the end, I truly enjoyed doing form TOs/LNDs and was one of the last few in the squadron that did them after they took them off as a currency. I thought they were lots of fun, more of a challenge and just looked way cooler . That said, I don't really thing it carries over to anything else I do tactically in the jet. Again, it's simple risk vs reward. We have what, 179 or 180 F-22s left in the inventory? For some reason if we ran two together (and had to write them off) practicing something we rarely, if ever needed, was it really worth it to keep practicing? Case and point, my squadron recently had a main gear collapse on landing and he made it to the middle of the left half of the runway before he got in under control and actually made it back to the centerline. Almost exactly a year prior, it happened to another Viper on the very same runway and that dude departed the runway. It's a known issue with the landing gear and the "check is in the mail" (for a long time) on a fix, but it's there, and I will be fore quite a few more years. How differently that would have gone if he were doing a form landing is highly dependent upon luck. Form low approach...sure we practice it all the time.​​​​​​
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Old 06-28-2020, 05:47 PM   #8  
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Second, I seriously question that it's faster with form TO. I think guys underestimate how long it takes to pull two jets onto the runway, runup and release brakes.​​​​​​
Oh grasshopper. You’ve obviously not seen the beauty of rolling formation AB takeoffs. BT F-15 standard departure for years.
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Old 06-29-2020, 05:54 AM   #9  
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After instructing at the RAG/FRS/RTU for 7.5 years, I saw many more dangerous situations potentially develop out of formation takeoffs than I ever did formation landings. This is the ONLY formation landing mishap I even know about between the USAF/USN/USMC.
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Old 06-29-2020, 08:03 AM   #10  
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Be careful making false equivalencies regarding formation takeoffs. One of the mistakes end-line CAF folks make is assume everything done in undergraduate training has to translate to the end product they fly (wrt formation landings getting the axe).

We are talking about undergraduate training environment here, volume is our mission. We don't have the ability to do a radar trail and suck our thumbs tied-in back and forth to/from the MOA. We'd be shut down formation sorties during MVFR days if we had to launch all singletons in instrument trail. Having to flight split in the MOA is a colossal ATC cluster nowadays as it is (we lose training on higher bingos to account for the long queues now if weather is below VMC drag mins, 4-ship training is about useless now in anything but CAVU wx days gas-wise), then you want to add a helen Keller drill on the departure end of the sortie because formation takeoffs are scary and good night irene.

UPT volume is just not equipped for launch windows where all T-6 and T-38 formation sorties launch in instrument trail. Most dangerous stuff I've ever seen in formation have been frustrated and belated instrument trail joinups where wingmen overtake lead in all dimensions. A complete football bat. Quarter of the sortie spent finding everybody, in a jet with a 1.1/0.8 UPT/IFF ASD.

Leadership recognizes this, which is why I'm willing to put money down we will continue doing form T/Os until we get onboard radar (not an emulator) in the UPT environment, which will be never. This business is dangerous, but people need to be careful not to miss the forest for the trees. Just because something doesn't specifically translate to what you do doesn't make it universally superfluous. Undergraduate training carries different risks than end-user MWS communities. That's why we do it on cheaper equipment.
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