This year at OSH 2018 a small group of EZ pilots sat before the Board of Directors meeting of Formation Flying, Inc. Varieze owner Leif Johnson turned to me and said “This is a monumental task”. His was an understatement of monumental proportions. What the FFI board had just passed was the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience Formation Supplement, which officially made our formation flying program part of FFI.
In 1995 36 EZ’s flew in formation over the airshow crowds of Oshkosh commemorating the 20th anniversary of the EZ. It got the nickname “Glass Overcast”. It was also a monumental task put together by Air Force Pilot and EZ driver Norm Howell and group of his friends. When Norm approached EAA about this commemorative formation he was told he’d never pull it off. Norm set up a series of training camps around the country and no one could expect to fly in the anniversary formation at OSH unless they attended these training camps and demonstrated they could fly formation safely. That was 1995 and then the FAA did not require any kind of credential to fly formation in an airshow. Today, they do.
Many anniversaries of Rutan designs have passed since then and little has been done to commemorate them. In 8 years there will be the big FIVE OH. That’s right, we’re turning 50! The idea started to form in some EZ driver’s heads that it would be sad to let this anniversary pass without some kind of celebration. The thought of another “Glass Overcast” seemed right. To get it done this time EZ drivers would need to somehow get “carded” by an FAA recognized organization that oversaw formation flying. There are two such entities the FAA calls a Recognized Industry Organization, or RIO. They are FAST, Formation And Safety Training, and Formation Flying, Inc. RAFE initially sought to become a “signatory” to FAST but were turned down because FAST wanted to divest itself of all “small airplane” participants and be warbird only. RAFE then wrote its own formation program and sought FAA RIO approval. In the process the FAA pointed out that RAFE was doing the same thing FFI was doing. Due to manpower and funding constraints the FAA felt the best path for RAFE was to join forces with FFI and thus was born the FFI-RAFE Supplement.
As of today you can get all the information you need to get started on becoming an FFI qualified formation pilot in your Rutan design!
Click the link and you’ll be taken to FFI’s website (then click DOCUMENTS Tab to access the RAFE supplement)
FFI formation standards and RAFE supplement
There will also be a schedule posted for upcoming formation “clinics” where EZ pilots will be able to participate in evaluations flights to earn their FFI Formation Card.
This is serious business folks. FFI standards are high. The FFI guidelines and RAFE Supplement are tools that all EZ pilots can use to develop their skills and operate in a standard and safe manner. You’ll need to come to a clinic well versed and capable. In order for EZ’s to fly in formation in airshows, in order to pull off the 50th anniversary Glass Overcast, we will have hard work ahead of us. Getting 50 EZ’s to show up at any of our regional fly-in’s is tough enough. Getting 50 EZ”s to fly in the same piece of sky will be nothing more than a “monumental task”, but knowing the character of the people in the Canard community, I have no doubts this is achievable.
EZ flight check in.
Founder and President
Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience