Little History of FFI by Stu McCurdy

As some of you may know, I founded FFI in 1999 as a measure of self-preservation. FAA came down with an edict that anyone who wanted to fly formation in FAA waivered airspace had to have a formation card issued by an agency authorized by FAA to do so. My formation demo team, Falcon Flight, had been doing airshows for about 8 years and we wanted to continue. But, there was no agency to issue cards for Experimentals or GA. So, in consultation with several people, I founded FFI and submitted it to FAA. They approved FFI as a formation evaluation and card issuing agency in April of 1999.


As a matter of clarification, FARs allow you to fly formation with other aircraft any time you want as long as you brief it. The only requirement for a formation card is to fly in FAA waivered airspace (ie Airshows). The only place you will see this requirement in print is in the Airshow Waiver Request Approval issued by an FAA FSDO. They are required to put in the Approval Special Provisions a paragraph that says that any pilot wishing to fly formation in the waivered airspace for the airshow must possess a formation card issued by an agency recognized by FAA to do so.FFI has been evaluating formation pilots since 1999 and now has 163 card carrying formation pilots ranging from Experimentals (mostly RVs, but also a few Ezes, Glasairs, Pitts), Bonanzas, Commanches, and Grummans.Formation teams have now emerged around the country. In addition to Falcon Flight in Texas, the Blackjack Squadron flies from Arlington WA, the Vanguards in Sioux Falls SD, Team RV formed in Atlanta area, Buckeye Flight within the Ohio Valley RVators, Vulture Flight within the Mid-Atlantic RV Wing, SoCal Flight from LA area, and recently the Blackhawk Squadron in IL.

A group is also forming in the New England area. These units have been conducting formation performances or flybys at numerous venues (airshows and fly-ins) around the country, such as Oshkosh, Sun 'N Fun, SWRFI, SERFI, RMRFI, Golden West, NWRFI, Central TX Airshow, Freedom Airshow, Atlantic City Airshow, Las Cruces RV Fly-in, and numerous smaller local airshows around the country. Although FFI is primarily a formation evaluation agency to provide formation cards for airshow purposes, lately highly experienced formation pilots (Stu McCurdy, Mike Stewart, and Joe Czachorowski) within FFI have been conducting formation clinics to provide classroom and flight training, standardization, and continuation training to pilots becoming involved in the art of formation flying. Clinics have been conducted at Atlanta, Mason City, Lakeland, Parkersburg, Las Vegas, and Millville, with others being scheduled for Mohave and Abilene. Some of these are recurring now each year and the Mason City Clinic, conducted the weekend before AirVenture, has become required participation for those wishing to fly at Oshkosh. The publication accepted for standardization around the country is the T-34 Formation Flight Manual, which is used at these clinics and by FFI evaluators.

Since the only requirement for a formation card is for flying in airshows, the FFI evaluations are all encompassing and require excellent formation skills. An evaluation requires a briefing with complete knowledge of the T-34 Formation Flight Manual, and is accomplished with a required 4-ship conducting formation startup, taxi, runup, 2 X formation takeoffs, joinup, climbout in fingertip and route, steep angle of pitch/bank maneuvering in fingertip, diamond, and trail, echelon turns, pitchout and rejoin, descent to the pattern in fingertip and route, an overhead pattern for touch and gos or low approaches, 2-ship joinups for 2 x formation landings, taxiback, shutdown, and debriefing.

Radio discipline and hand/airplane signals are very important. If this post raises questions or interest, you may post a response or contact me at stumccurdy (at) Stu McCurdy FFI __________________ Stu McCurdy RV-8, 78TX, Flying RV-3, 74TX, Flying Formation Flying, Inc (FFI) Falcon Flight