In the last few months RAFE has been putting a lot of effort into developing our formation flying program and merging it into Formation Flying, Inc. The primary reason we’re doing this is to have a method to get credentials for RAFE and other Rutan Pilots so we can fly formations and other maneuvers in waivered airspace. I know many of you already fly formation with your friends and are probably wondering what’s the big deal? The “big deal” is that times have been changing and the “good old boy” way of doing things is being over-ruled by the FAA. In 1995 about 50 of us flew in one of the first mass arrivals ever done into OSH. A few days later 36 of us flew in one mass formation over the crowds in the middle of the OSH airshow to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the EZ. We couldn’t pull that off today because no one can fly formation in an air show without some kind of credential, which is often referred to as a “formation card”. The FAA only recognizes the formation cards issued by two entities the FAA calls a “RIO” or Recognized Industry Organization. There are two RIOs that issue formation cards, Formation Training and Safety also known as FAST and FFI. Initially I aspired to have RAFE become a “signatory” to FAST much like all the other type groups that agree to abide by the FAST rules and regulations. Instead FAST turned us down and also divested itself of anything not “Warbird”. After looking into FFI which was primarily an RV formation organization, I pursued our own formation program and hoped there would be three RIOs that could issue an FAA recognized formation card, by having RAFE become a RIO. Instead the FAA asked me to try and see if we could fit what we do into FFI. I resisted because I know our airplanes have enough unique features that it wouldn’t be a direct crossover into what the RV guys do, but in the end agreed to give it a try. So far it’s been a real pleasure working with FFI and I see no reason why we can’t get our own pilots qualified with them.
So what does all this mean? Growth and the mission of the RAFE. We are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Burt Rutan’s Homebuilt designs and anything else Canard. Our numbers have been dwindling, which was the inspiration to start this organization to begin with. I’ve said since the beginning the way to preserve and promote our brand is keep the airplanes out in front of the public. We need people to realize we are still relevant. Though the EZ design might be almost four decades old, that doesn’t mean we should fade away. RV’s are that old too! They are prospering. So the reason we’re dwindling isn’t age, its visibility.
Formation flying is fun. It’s demanding. It has an artistic quality. People look up when a formation flies by. It’s VISIBLE! It’s a reason to go fly other than the hundred dollars hamburger. It’s going as a group, showing up in style, arriving at the same time and filling up the ramp at the airport restaurant with cool airplanes. That makes us more visible!
Acquiring Formation flying skills is an achievement. It’s not a rating, but it’s a skill set that a Pilot can be proud of. If you think you fly well, join up next to another airplane and you’ll have a new appreciation for how precise you fly. Formation Flying makes you a better, safer pilot!
Formation flying skills are perishable so you'll want to fly MORE OFTEN to keep them!
Formation flying is inspiring. Like the artistic quality it has, formation flying makes people think, “I want to learn to do that...”. It draws people in which is a perfect fit for promoting and preserving our airplanes.
RAFE has a goal to fly a fifty airplane formation on the 50th anniversary of the EZ. At the moment I don’t think we could find fifty EZ Pilots to fly formation with. If we don’t get out there and start flying, if we don’t get out there and start being VISIBLE, there may not be fifty EZ’s left flying when the fiftieth anniversary rolls around.
Get involved with the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience. Become an Aircraft Sponsor. Get involved with the FFI Formation program. FLY VISIBLY. Fly To INSPIRE! For whatever the reason, FLY Your EZ!