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Author Topic: Breaking Up Formation Flights  (Read 7180 times)
DairyCreamer
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« on: November 30, 2007, 12:42:15 AM »

Hi all,

Preferably addressed to the tower CPCs in the building, but anyone in the know I'd like to hear from.  I'm a center puke, so, forgive the ignorance.

Sparked in part by a thread over in the VATSIM forums, how does a local controller go about breaking up a formation flight that's inbound to land?

Say you are any old Class D tower in the boondocks, and a flight of 4 RV8's calls up inbound to land.  If you have other planes in the pattern, do you just tell them to "follow XYZ airplane" and clear them to land as a flight?  Do you obtain each individual callsign and talk to each separately?

Understanding that they are all see and avoid, I'm just curious whether or what needs to be done.

Also, do things change at all for a Class C or Class B airport?

~Nate
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davolijj
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2007, 10:36:57 AM »

Most formation flights I've ever worked came in requesting the overhead.



This is a military maneuver specifically designed for breaking up formation flights to land.  Sequencing them into the pattern with other traffic can be kind of tricky.  I know there's a navy pilot on here and some tower pros that can probably give you more info.  7110.65  3-10-12 if you want to know more.
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Regards
JD
cmhidinger
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2007, 10:53:43 AM »

Every flight I've ever worked (1 military tower, 1 contract, 1 FAA) has come in for an overhead approach to break up the flight.  They all break at separate points and build spacing between eachother this way.  I've seen a few civil formation flights come in where Joe and Bob are flying their homebuilts and they'll request an overhead as well.  A good .65 ref. is
2-1-13 Formation Flights.  It discusses responsibility for separation when they break up.

hd
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2007, 11:35:24 AM »

I appreciate the responses thus far.

I've been to HMN AFB's tower and have watched military overheads and those operations directly.  It's an efficient and logical operation.

If you get joe schmoe + 3 of his closest friends heading out for a breakfast burrito though, and they dont know their initial point isn't something more than their departure airport, I'm curious how that would be handled.

~Nate
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cmhidinger
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2007, 06:00:42 PM »

Every controller will have their own way of dealing with this situation but personally I would only allow a flight of RV8's to conduct this if they already knew what an overhead was.  I suspect most pilots have a general idea of how it's done so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Otherwise, if four RV8's came in and just wanted to enter the rectangular pattern, I'd figure out which aircraft was closest to the airport, make him number 1, clear him to land, make sure the second guy had the first in sight (I know, duhh undecided he should but make him say it on freq) and then tell him to follow that aircraft, number 2 cleared to land.  And so on with number three, four etc...

Also with a civilian flight you can use same runway separation rules based on their SRS category but you cannot use reduced runway separation like they do in the military with their jets.

Hope this helps,

hd
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2007, 06:06:02 PM »

So... you need to ascertain each callsign to clear them to land individually?

Sorry, just looking for phraseology examples to go with your idea.  I'm all concrete like that.  I know it's probably fairly rare, but, I suppose it comes up.

And what if you're a 1 runway operation and have people in the pattern already.  How do you squeeze in an overhead-type maneuver, or otherwise put 4 more aircraft in the pattern asap?

Again... center puke here, trying to learn some terminal action for my own self fulfillment Wink

~Nate
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NatcaDog
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2007, 07:03:15 PM »

There is no requirement to break them up, unless they ask for it. If they say they are a flight, then tell the leader who to follow, and clear them to land. As a flight, they aren't all talking to you, only the leader is. Remember, as a flight, they are treated as one really long aircraft. You have to protect the leader and the tail end charlie. When they land, just because you are only talking to the leader, and he's clear of the runway, the tail ender may still be on final. You must protect for the entire flight.

If they are a flight, more than likely they know what an overhead is. However, I wouldn't clear them for one unless they specifically asked for it. Even then, they are still a flight, and one clearance works for all of them.

Now, if they wanted to break up, the current workload and their position would determine if I gave the clearances away from the airport or on the overhead. I've done both; each has it's benefits. It all depends on the actual situation at the time.
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kaktak1
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2007, 08:21:13 PM »

yeah, nate you work at ZAB right.  of all the military bases I go to (KNZY), the tower says "clear over the break".  the pilots know exactly what to do since it is there job.    there are so few planes at KNZY there that they don't have to worry about another plane cutting them off.But VATSIM has so many unexperienced pilots that you have to give them headings.  I did it once, it was frustrating, believe me.
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If black boxes survive air crashes — why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?
DairyCreamer
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2007, 12:12:43 AM »

yeah, nate you work at ZAB right.  of all the military bases I go to (KNZY), the tower says "clear over the break".  the pilots know exactly what to do since it is there job.    there are so few planes at KNZY there that they don't have to worry about another plane cutting them off.But VATSIM has so many unexperienced pilots that you have to give them headings.  I did it once, it was frustrating, believe me.

Hi there,

Once again, I'm more interested in the civilian side of things.  I would expect the military to know how to perform an overhead maneuver.

Thanks for the input.

~Nate
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cmhidinger
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2007, 08:48:04 AM »

Dairycreamer,

Don't know if this helps but like I said in my previous post, I believe you need to maintain a legal form of runway separation as outlined in 3-10-3 when civilian flights land.  There isn't anything in the .65 prohibiting civilians from doing the overhead but as far as them flying in flights at a controlled airport and acting as a flight I'm hesitant to treat them like I would the military.  In Natcadog's post it's sounds to me like he thinks you can clear the first and then let the rest of the flight land on that clearance.  In the military that is true, however I would still issue individual clearances to civilians and maintain legal SRS based on the aircrafts categories.  Did you see what happened with the 2 P51's at Oshkosh this year when they landed?  God forbid that ever happen on my shift and I have to answer why I let two non-military aircraft land so close to eachother.  Just my experience though.

hd
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NatcaDog
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2007, 10:52:56 AM »

It's not what I think, it's what the rules allow for.

From FAA Order 7110.65:

2−1−13. FORMATION FLIGHTS

a. Control formation flights as a single aircraft.
When individual control is requested, issue advisory
information which will assist the pilots in attaining
separation. When pilot reports indicate separation has
been established, issue control instructions as
required.

NOTE−
1. Separation responsibility between aircraft within the
formation during transition to individual control rests with
the pilots concerned until standard separation has been
attained.
2. Formation join-up and breakaway will be conducted in
VFR weather conditions unless prior authorization has
been obtained from ATC or individual control has been
approved.
REFERENCE−
FAAO 7110.65, Additional Separation for Formation Flights,
Para 5−5−8.
P/CG Term− Formation Flight.

Notice there is no reference to military versus civilian. However, in subpararaph b., it does talk about military and civilian flights in RVSM airspace.

About your having to answer why - Because it's what the pilot's requested, and it was by the rules.

I've been doing it this way for the last 19 years or so, and it's by the book.
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cmhidinger
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« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2007, 02:16:55 PM »

Natcadog,

my apologies, you are correct.  I thougt there had to be some sort of LOA to allow civilians to fly in these flights and conduct their operations just as the military does.  The AIM and FAR 91 are pretty vague and just leave the responsibility with the pilots in command so I guess you really do just treat them as one throughout their flight.  Thanks for the insight, I've learned something new.

hd
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NatcaDog
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« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2007, 02:52:50 PM »

That's OK. I try and learn something new everyday...drives my wife nuts.

And for what it's worth - my manager thought the same as you. Even when we tried to help him understand it, he still wanted to argue. Though one of us did blow smoke up his six by telling him it was OK as long as one was a low-wing, and the other was a high-wing. That really confused him.

I have seen LOAs for these type of operations, but it was at the insistance of the airport authority, and between the airport and the pilots only. I think they were worried about liability. We weren't involved in that at all.

Since I work weekends, I probably see 3 or 4 formation flights every week. Some want the overhead, some don't. A few want to circle one time after take off to join up, most don't. And once in a while, they want to break up, but not very often. I have had a formation ask if 2 or their aircraft could break off and land, while the rest continued to another destination. Also, I don't believe I've ever dealt with formation flights that didn't have ex- or retired military pilots in their group. I personally know alot of these guys in the central Florida area, and they are almost all retired military.

If you've ever worked MARSA in the center environment, remember how the lead and the trail had their transponders on? That was so we could see the "length" of the "aircraft." Since the flight is treated and seperated as one aircraft, you had to know the "size" of what you were protecting.

Hope this helps.
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DairyCreamer
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2007, 04:25:21 PM »

I really appreciate the insight on this.  It appears the operation is more simple than I make it to be (typical of me).

NatcaDog, much appreciated.  PM me?

~Nate
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zmeatc
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« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2007, 08:17:10 PM »

Hi all,

Preferably addressed to the tower CPCs in the building, but anyone in the know I'd like to hear from.  I'm a center puke, so, forgive the ignorance.

Sparked in part by a thread over in the VATSIM forums, how does a local controller go about breaking up a formation flight that's inbound to land?

Say you are any old Class D tower in the boondocks, and a flight of 4 RV8's calls up inbound to land.  If you have other planes in the pattern, do you just tell them to "follow XYZ airplane" and clear them to land as a flight?  Do you obtain each individual callsign and talk to each separately?

Understanding that they are all see and avoid, I'm just curious whether or what needs to be done.

Also, do things change at all for a Class C or Class B airport?

~Nate


Hey DairyCreamer,

       When this goes on in your sector in a center that's when you say "contact XXX.X, next sector has your request!" LOL!

By the way, You the same DairyCreamer on another site?

And if so, any advice for a D-School non-radar PV?
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