Do you want to experience formation flying for yourself? With great thanks to two guests who have joined us on a calm Sunday morning with their cameras, we are now able to share with you an entire formation flight. You are flying in the fourth position, on the PH-HLR. Audio included, so carefully listen to radio calls from the leader!
Do you have a question about the Victor Romeo Formation? We have tried to put together the questions we have received most frequently and noted down the answers below. Is your question not among these? Then, do not hesitate to send us a message!
How can I join the formation team?
Get to know us! Get acquainted. Formation flying requires time and dedication. It is one of the most fun things to do, but it is important you fit into the team well.
How many hours do I need to practice to join the team?
Short answer: no idea. It depends on you. Do you have an aptitude? Are you able to show up many Sunday mornings to fly?
A day of calm weather can make formation flying seem easy, but as a beginning student, you will notice that the many corrections (approximately three a second: throttle, rudder, stick) require a lot of attention and effort on your part. The team will not let you solo easily. We must trust that you can safely join the formation and that you know how to leave the formation if you cannot maintain your position. Your reflexes must be correct. A formation first solo is quite the same as your first solo when practicing for your PPL!
How does the training of new formation students work?
If you do take aptitude and if you do fit into the team, you will be trained by current formation pilots. There is no specific formation rating, current team members will offer these trainings. This way, the Victor Romeo Formation will continue to exist into future generations.
Why did each team member start formation flying?
You can read their responses to that question right here!
“A bit of psychological coercion. I was on the board of Vliegclub Rotterdam with three formation team members, they pulled me in. Giving up your Sunday morning when you already have a busy working week and are a night owl has quite an impact. Being able to do formation flying is extraordinary, though. I get a kick out of the control I have over the plane.”
“Routine is boring, but formation flying never gets old. A team member once invited me to join the Victor Romeo Formation and as it turns out, I very much enjoy it. I also do some other flying-related things to keep myself on my toes: aerobatics, multi-engine (ME), I got my instrument rating (IR) and I sometimes do performance-based navigation (PBN).”
“I started (formation) flying after I stopped delta flying. I wanted a new flying-related hobby that would challenge me. No more 100 dollar hamburgers, at least not only that.”
“I wanted to develop my flying skills. Formation flying seemed to be a great move towards complete control of the airplane. I watched the then team members fly in formation and thought: ‘Wow, I want to be able to do that too!'”
“My first introduction to formation flying was during the memorial of Operation Market Garden over Arnhem in 1994. I joined a formation of 9 airplanes in Diamond Nine, absolutely spectacular! On the way back, Dick Teeuwen asked if I wanted to try… It was then that I knew, I wanted to do this too!”
“When I started flying, we came across another plane from Vliegclub Rotterdam, piloted by one of the formation pilots. My instructor said ‘try flying on his wing’. Of course, there was a bit more distance then than the 1.5 meters we try to fly now. But nonetheless, it seemed that I was quite good at it, and I loved it!”
“There are only two things I do with my flying. Trips abroad with friends and formation flying. I was asked to join the team by members who were in before me, and to this day I enjoy it very much.”
“My wife once gifted me with a flying lesson at Vliegclub Rotterdam. A few years after getting my pilot’s license, I joined the formation team. I’ve been doing this for a very long time now. I am also one of two pilots training current formation students, occasionally.”
The Victor Romeo Formation performs in air shows. They used to visit the Volkel in de Wolken airshow each year until the show was discontinued in 2017. At Vliegclub Rotterdam’s open day, the team always performs a formation demo. They do a flyover every year at the introduction day of TU Delft’s Leonardo da Vinci study association.
What we may do
The team can fly shows or demos during UDP (uniform daylight period). This is from sunrise until fifteen minutes past sunset. The formation can fly nearly everywhere, with some obvious exceptions such as military terrain.
What we can do
The Victor Romeo Formation has access to all civil airfields in the Netherlands and Belgium! A show or demo can start from any such field near your event. Are you ready for take-off?
Request a quote (no obligations!)
The price of a show depends on the number of aircraft, the distance to the event (due to fuel costs) and the available preparation time. We are more than happy to write up a non-binding offer for you. In the form below, please include the name, date, and place of your event. We will look at the possibilities and contact you!
All shows and demonstrations are subject to good weather conditions.
Thank you so much for your message! This is to confirm that we have received it in good order. We will be in touch shortly.
Communication is of utmost importance. If you want to fly from or to a controlled airfield, such as Rotterdam, Schiphol, Lelystad, or Groningen, you need an RT certificate. With this, you prove that you know the radio procedures and are able to use them well.
In formation flying, communication is even more important. The reason being the proximity of the aircraft to one another. Below, you will find some of the most common radio calls we use during our training. The leader always initiates these calls. The other pilots only reply during a formation check-in, or in case something does not go according to plan (for example, they cannot keep off and have to leave the formation, to rejoin later).
In formation, every aircraft has its own number. For the Box Formation (the default formation) the leader is number 1, the aircraft on its left wing is number 2, on its right wing number 3, right behind the leader number 4. The aircraft on number 4’s left wing is number 5, and on number 4’s right wing, you will find number 6. In case there is a number 7, he will be directly behind the number 4.
The formation check-in helps the leader to check if all aircraft have their radios on the correct frequency. This is necessary, because taxiing and moving around the airfield is done on the tower frequency, but after departure, the formation will change to another frequency for air-to-air communication. After every frequency change, the leader will call out a formation check-in. All aircraft answer with their number, in the correct order.
Delta formation, delta formation, go
To initiate a formation change, the name of the next formation is called twice, followed by the word ‘go’. This is the signal to start moving and allows formation changes to partake smoothly and safely.
Other examples include ‘back in box, back in box, go’ or ‘eagle formation, eagle formation, go’.
Prepare for crossbreak
This call is used to initiate a crossbreak. Because during a crossbreak, the airplanes’ paths cross directly in front of one another, they need more separation than in a normal formation. When preparing for a crossbreak, half of the formation flies on the left side and the other half flies on the right side.
From the audience’s perspective, a crossbreak makes it seems like the planes will fly into each other. The ones at the back fly up straight, crossing through the paths of the planes in front. Distance offers safety, in exchange for a spectacular sight.
Due to the distance between the planes before a crossbreak, the leader can no longer see all aircraft. Therefore, he relies on the last pilot to call out ‘in position’, so he knows when he can start counting down.
Dive for the break
A crossbreak requires quite some speed, as the planes quickly pull up or pull to the side. For this, they first need to fly down to pick up airspeed. We’re not flying with Extra 300s, after all! 🙂 This move is initiated by ‘dive for the break’.
Prepare for the pull
The departure route from the airfield to Hook of Holland is positioned at 1000 feet (about 300 meters above the ground). Once the formation is out of the CTR, they want to climb to 1500 feet. This has several reasons: 1) more air below = space to fix mistakes and 2) less noise for the people on the ground. The way the formation climbs to 1500 feet is with a ‘pull’: the airplanes simultaneously pull up. For this they need speed, therefore the leader needs to call out ‘prepare for the pull’ to make sure everyone’s got their throttle a bit further forward.
Blue Section, detach
The Blue Section is the second group of a formation. In the Victor Romeo Formation, the Blue Section exists when there is a formation of five or six (or seven) aircraft. For a formation landing, the Blue Section needs to split from the Red Section as only three aircraft can land at the same time. Therefore, the leader will call out ‘Blue Section, detach’ so everyone knows to split off and prepare for landing.
Number one, turning in
Right before an individual landing (these are done when there is too much crosswind for a safe formation landing) the leader will always call out when he is turning to base and final. He will then call out ‘number one, turning in’.
We will take off in formation, after take-off we will join in a box formation. After turning to the coast, we will practice some formation changes. Using the beach as a reference point, we will perform a crossbreak. Questions, anyone?
Do you want to learn formation flying? You can! However, there is no designated pilot’s license or rating you can get. Formation flying is taught by practicing while being supervised by one of the more experienced team members.
Becoming an experienced formation pilot requires time and energy. Not only because you will learn to fly in a very different way than you normally would, but also because a formation team can only function properly when all team members blindly trust each other.
Just like every formation flight, every training flight starts with a briefing: what are we going to practice and what should we pay specific attention to? After each training the team debriefs, to decide what went well and what should be improved.
Formation flying is very team specific. The Netherlands has other formation teams as well, take the Fokker Four as an example. However, they fly in very different airplanes and execute very different maneuvers than the Victor Romeo Formation. If you are a proficient formation pilot in one team, that does not mean you can automatically join another team.
In short, the Victor Romeo Formation is a close-knit group of pilots, connected by formation flying. Becoming a member will require your commitment – there is a training flight every Sunday morning over the Hook of Holland beach (whenever the weather allows).
Click on the images for more information and photos!
Vliegclub Rotterdam’s formation team has been flying since 1965, so it’s currently over 55 years old. At the start, the team only performed fly-by maneuvers, especially during Vliegclub Rotterdam members’ wedding ceremonies and funeral services. This changed three years later. In 1968, the formation team started flying figures (like lazy eights). On the way back from Le Bourget Airshow, the name ‘Victor Romeo Formation’ was coined. Ever since it has been the official name and callsign of the formation team.
The team members have changed over the years. It once started with former military pilots. Formation flying is a military activity, after all, it offers protection to military aircraft. As for civil aviation, there is no practical use for formation flying. Except of course, that it is awesome to do!
Currently, the team comprises eight pilots. Fun fact: none of the current pilots are also professional pilots (one student is, though). We all have very different lives, but we join in our passion for formation flying. There are also two students who regularly join the formation training and receive training themselves, too.
Even though all of us can fly in different positions in the formation, we usually have the same leader. Flying in the leader position may appear easy, but you are responsible for the entire formation. That means you must look around and check if everyone is still flying where they are supposed to be, check if everyone can hear you, communicate with ATC, and navigate. Not so easy after all!
Throughout the year, we have visited a variety of airshows. Most frequently we were to be found on Volkel in de Wolken. We have also been to Harreveld on Wheels, to the Dutch Air Force Days (in Leeuwarden, for example), to Seppe Airfield (with a borrowed plane, no less, the PH-NCD), Maritiem Vliegkamp de Kooy and finally, we have flown demonstrations on Vliegclub Rotterdam’s open days itself. For those of you who are members of the Vliegclub, we have also been to the September 2021 club week at Stadtlohn-Vreden Airport.