Formation flying has to be some of the coolest flying around. Ask anybody who’s seen the Blue Angels or the Aeroshell team of T-6s, or the Aerostars’ Yak-52tw, or [insert your favorite group here]. The air-to-air photo and video shoots we conduct for the magazines require precision formation flying. We have several accomplished formation pilots on staff, and I can act as a safety pilot, flying right seat on the photo ship. My primary duties are to watch for traffic and communicate the photographer’s requests to the subject airplane.
On Tuesday evening the Fun to Fly Remos and our photo ship, an A36 Bonanza flown by Deputy Editor Ian Twombly, traveled to Cambridge, Md., to get in some air-to-air. We were in somewhat of a race to get some good light before sunset and a thickening overcast wiped it out, and we were looking for a scenic backdrop for the Remos. It’s been pretty hot and dry here in the Mid-Atlantic, and there’s a lot of brown, parched-looking landscape in our backyard. But over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland along the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay, it is still lush.
The photo shoot itself was a series of turns, some steep, some standard-rate, in which the Remos hugged the Bonanza while photographer Chris Rose shot out the Bonanza’s rear door, which had been removed (he was harnessed). Senior Editor Dave Hirschman’s stick skills are so sharp that I have a hard time pulling my eyes away to scan for traffic. And when Chris instructs me to tell Hirschman to break, I can’t help but watch as Dave counts down and snaps the Remos cleanly into what looks like a 60-degree bank. I can’t wait for you to see the video; it’ll be posted on AOPA Online to coincide with the September issue of AOPA Pilot, where you’ll see the still photos.