The Pull allows the formation to quickly gain altitude without the formation breaking apart. It’s not a maneuver performed during shows, since the planes are already at the right altitude prior to entering the display area. The formation does frequently perform this maneuver on Sunday mornings during training.
The departure route from Rotterdam The Hague Airport to Hook of Holland is situated at 1000 feet (about 300 meters). More than high enough to fly safely, but for practicing formations we prefer to start a bit higher. The Pull brings the formation to 1500 feet, just about 450 meters. This allows for more leeway to correct any mishaps. Besides, the higher we fly, the less loud we are for people on the ground. We do like to entertain you on Sunday morning, but we don’t like to ruin your lazy morning, and six planes do produce quite some noise!
The goal of a Crossbreak is to create the illusion that the airplanes are flying directly through each other. Then they create a beautiful explosion with planes flying in all directions.
The Victor Romeo Formation flies crossbreaks with three, four, five, or six airplanes. It’s not an easy maneuver to perform and also not without risks. The formation has taken care of the risks though, by incorporating several safety measures that ensure that nothing can go wrong. The most important measure is separation: the planes need to keep enough distance so they can safely turn away in front of one another.
When the leader calls out “prepare for Crossbreak” over the radio, the planes start to form a line, alternating between flying on the left and flying on the right. The leader always flies left. Planes flying left will make a right turn and vice versa.
Because the leader is unable to see all the other planes from his frontmost position, he is relying on the last plane to check whether everyone is in the right position. Over the radio the last pilot will verify “in position”, and then the crossbreak can begin!
The formation will start a dive. They do this because they need to pick up speed to turn away (and sometimes pull up) sharply. When the formation nears the display line (when practicing in Hoek van Holland, this is the beach) the leader will count down: “three, two, one, go”. Then, all the planes will start their turn (or pull).
A Two-Seventy is a maneuver, not a formation. This means that it’s a pattern flown through the air, much like lazy eights or chandelles.
As the name suggests, a Two-Seventy refers to a turn of 270 degrees. Three-fourth around the protractor! Such a turn in itself isn’t very special. However, the formation incorporates altitude differences throughout the turn. From the perspective of the audience, it looks like the planes are performing a looping!
You can see the flown altitude differences in this schematic. At the beginning of the turn, the formation is flying relatively high. They then dive down, picking up speed. A bit later they pull up again, trading speed for altitude.
A fun fact about the Two-Seventy: only the leader knows about where he is throughout the turn. He also knows when to dive, when to turn, and when to pull up. The numbers 2, 3, 4 and so on certainly know what is about to happen but they rely on the leader for the commands to guide them. They are too focused on flying a tight formation to know how much of the turn has already been completed. The commands used for guidance by the leader are the following: “Two-Seventy, left-hand”, and “dive… start banking… and pull up”.