Formation Landings

Nark

Macho Superpilot
I'm a guard guy, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt...

As a guard unit we have a lot of old hats, that come up through the ranks and stay. With that said, we are shamed, publicly, for lack of tight formations. We brief 1-2 disks, on takeoff and landings and 3-5 en route. Call it what you want, but there is the dATM standard, then there is the unit standard. It show's when cross pollinating and we play with others.

@Lawman may or may not comment on working with us, but I think we aren't the "average" weekend warriors.
And holy hell, those skills are perishable. We have a bunch of senior 2-3's leaving and very green 1's and 2's behind us. The torch is being passed, and we're doing our best to set up those behind us to succeed.


...


So, there I was: with a brand new RL1 1LT. We're 3 of 5 as AMC, he's on the controls. We assault Camp Riply at 2am in some LZ. I've only "no-challenged" taken the controls once... I'm pretty sure the main rotors were perfectly timed with 2's tail rotor, as not to collide...

The good news is that if you don't have formation skills to begin with, there's no skill to lose!
 

Low_Level_Hell

Well-Known Member
I'm a guard guy, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt...

As a guard unit we have a lot of old hats, that come up through the ranks and stay. With that said, we are shamed, publicly, for lack of tight formations. We brief 1-2 disks, on takeoff and landings and 3-5 en route. Call it what you want, but there is the dATM standard, then there is the unit standard. It show's when cross pollinating and we play with others.

@Lawman may or may not comment on working with us, but I think we aren't the "average" weekend warriors.
And holy hell, those skills are perishable. We have a bunch of senior 2-3's leaving and very green 1's and 2's behind us. The torch is being passed, and we're doing our best to set up those behind us to succeed.


...


So, there I was: with a brand new RL1 1LT. We're 3 of 5 as AMC, he's on the controls. We assault Camp Riply at 2am in some LZ. I've only "no-challenged" taken the controls once... I'm pretty sure the main rotors were perfectly timed with 2's tail rotor, as not to collide...

The good news is that if you don't have formation skills to begin with, there's no skill to lose!
With the number of full time technicians and AGR soldiers I pretty much view Guard Aviation units as pretty much being just like Regular Army units but their soldiers don't PCS and seemingly have way more inter-personnel drama. Also with guard units their maintenance program is usually twice as good, mainly because from Monday to Friday the wrench turners are actually turning wrenches instead of other awesome Army things.

Having flown security for a number of air assaults being performed in the deserts of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Atropia its always a tense moment to watch a formation of Blackhawks and/or Chinooks disappear in and dust cloud and just hope the same amount of helicopters emerge from said dust cloud.
 

Nark

Macho Superpilot
Fresh out of flight school we did an NTC rotation. The rotation after, a classmate balled up a hawk.
They lived, which was nice.
 

Lawman

Well-Known Member
Oh I get it. My facetiousness was lost on here. I can recall several years ago where our MO was to fly low at a 5 to 10 ten disk formation cause that's how we were expected to fly and it didn't work out so well. It limited the reaction to contact options, demanded a lot of focus form the person flying (especially with legacy NVS), and was riskier than it needed to be. It's old news now but 4th ID lost two AHs from flying that way.
That’s the funny part about explaining the necessity of this type of training to the desks that control approval or not.

There is a chart on that whole opposite trending curves of risk vs experience and a direct correlation to them. Problem is getting them to buy off on the short term risk to accept the fact something will happen in the area of the chart between 0 (now) and 5 years when the force is now focused/fully cultivated and the skill developed. No commander wants to make that leap because they are concerned about the next 18 months. Anything that occurs after that is somebody else’s reward so all they get is the risk.

Your point about Legacy FLIR is a great example of a skill we allowed to atrophy and then would not accept investment to rebuild. Legacy FLIR actually needed closer formation work to be worthwhile in definable resolution that a pilot could use it. That middle range of formation distance gives you nothing but poor queuing to do something poorly like formation flying. Instead of doing the hard right and teaching/learning how to truly do it right we went to the easy correct of “just stop flying so damn close/low.” We grew an entire cadre of pilots who simply cannot be comfortable with the idea of flying 3 disks off another helicopter at <200’ AGL much less letting them new guy be on the controls while they progress them. Doing such seems like a recipe for suicide. But we know we can do it because it was done before, IE Task Force Normandy. And those guys did it without talking (another pet peeve of mine) because they planned, briefed, and rehearsed like the doctrine says we will. Not because they were just so damned good.


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Low_Level_Hell

Well-Known Member
That’s the funny part about explaining the necessity of this type of training to the desks that control approval or not.

There is a chart on that whole opposite trending curves of risk vs experience and a direct correlation to them. Problem is getting them to buy off on the short term risk to accept the fact something will happen in the area of the chart between 0 (now) and 5 years when the force is now focused/fully cultivated and the skill developed. No commander wants to make that leap because they are concerned about the next 18 months. Anything that occurs after that is somebody else’s reward so all they get is the risk.

Your point about Legacy FLIR is a great example of a skill we allowed to atrophy and then would not accept investment to rebuild. Legacy FLIR actually needed closer formation work to be worthwhile in definable resolution that a pilot could use it. That middle range of formation distance gives you nothing but poor queuing to do something poorly like formation flying. Instead of doing the hard right and teaching/learning how to truly do it right we went to the easy correct of “just stop flying so damn close/low.” We grew an entire cadre of pilots who simply cannot be comfortable with the idea of flying 3 disks off another helicopter at <200’ AGL much less letting them new guy be on the controls while they progress them. Doing such seems like a recipe for suicide. But we know we can do it because it was done before, IE Task Force Normandy. And those guys did it without talking (another pet peeve of mine) because they planned, briefed, and rehearsed like the doctrine says we will. Not because they were just so damned good.


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Have you used that new degraded environment landing system yet?
 

Lawman

Well-Known Member
Have you used that new degraded environment landing system yet?
I’ve seen it but nobody cares when we get it, because the task for DVE landing has matured so much it’s a non issue.

Hence the formation flying critique. Landing in DVE during formation assaults and being 2 rotor disks is actually better. You stay in a hole that develops and maintain visual of the lead aircraft that way. At 5 you’re just guessing where he went.


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