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Izel

Formation flying - does it get any better with time?

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Hello to all fellow seasoned virtual pilots out there,

 

I've been practicing formation flying for several hours now (by following an AI leader), and I got to a point where I can, more-or-less,  hold my relative position for an extended period of time, even during turns.  However, I am constantly fiddling with throttle, rudder and joystick input,  correcting, over-correcting, and correcting again, especially during a turn.

 

I remember when my dad taught me how to drive,  he would chastise me if I corrected my steering wheel position after entering a curve.  He said something on the lines of "if the curve is well designed, you should turn your wheel, find the 'sweet spot', and maintain that position until you exit the curve - if my head boobs laterally during the curve (as a result of corrections), you are doing it wrong".  I learnt the skill, noting that on many cars, the steering wheel gives a very discrete feedback in the form of a minor resistance when reaching the sweet spot.

 

So, I have a pair of questions regarding this topic,

 

1. Should it be like in a car?  In other words, should I aim in trying to develop that "sweet-spot" finding, -even in the absence of force feedback-, or should I aim for unconscious, constant control fiddling?

2. When I hold my position during a turn,  my turn coordination indicator always shows I'm slipping (I mainly use rudder to correct if my relative horizontal position drifts).  If I attempt to coordinate my turn and center the ball, I invariably lose my formation position. Is this normal or is it an indicator that I'm doing it wrong? I'm assuming that the leader is performing a coordinated turn, so I would guess my turn should be coordinated too.

 

Cheers!

 

Sergio

 

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You flying in VR? formation in VR is very realistic, and throttle and joystick adjustments has to be made all the time, in real formation flying or in the sim.

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2 hours ago, sgorozco37 said:

Hello to all fellow seasoned virtual pilots out there,

 

I've been practicing formation flying for several hours now (by following an AI leader), and I got to a point where I can, more-or-less,  hold my relative position for an extended period of time, even during turns.  However, I am constantly fiddling with throttle, rudder and joystick input,  correcting, over-correcting, and correcting again, especially during a turn.

 

 

Make small corrections. A few techniques...light pressure on the stick don't try to squeeze it so hard that buttons pop off.

1) It would help immensely to have your airplane trimmed up (trimmed for hands off straight and level flight) for the airspeed you're flying. 

2) Try wiggling your fingers (takes the tension out of your hand) periodically.

2) Wiggle your toes periodically.

4) One RL technique that some guys taught in USAF UPT was while in close formation to "stir the stick" in a very small/tiny circle.  

 

Close formation flying is hard WORK requiring constant correction. Tactical formation is much easier.

Edited by busdriver
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41 minutes ago, busdriver said:

 

Make small corrections. A few techniques...light pressure on the stick don't try to squeeze it so hard that buttons pop off.

1) It would help immensely to have your airplane trimmed up (trimmed for hands off straight and level flight) for the airspeed you're flying. 

2) Try wiggling your fingers (takes the tension out of your hand) periodically.

2) Wiggle your toes periodically.

4) One RL technique that some guys taught in USAF UPT was while in close formation to "stir the stick" in a very small/tiny circle.  

 

Close formation flying is hard WORK requiring constant correction. Tactical formation is much easier.

I find that with computer joysticks stirring the stick is almost impossible, either the stick is far too resistant to such maneuvers or it's too sensitive.

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The major problem in close formations is judging the closing speed and distances though that is supposedly easier in VR.   I find the most important lesson is to avoid large movement of the throttle. You cannot just zoom into the correct position then instantly drop down to your leaders airspeed so you must make allowances for how long it will take you to bleed off excess speed by doing the final approach very slowly.    With a human leader it helps if he advised you what speed he is maintaining and keeps it steady.  With AI they wont tell you but they do at least hold it very steady.  If you are flying an online mission with AI and it has an airstart then you will already be at the correct speed so make a note of what that is before disengaging autopilot.   They will usually return to that speed whenever they are cruising.   Similarly, do not make large rolling movements to adjust your spacing. For small adjustments try using your rudder only.     One last tip that may not be recommended by RL instructors is that if I see I am about to overshoot my leader when rejoining,  I use large left & right rudder inputs to wag my tail which kills speed fast.

 

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15 hours ago, II./JG77_motoadve said:

You flying in VR? formation in VR is very realistic, and throttle and joystick adjustments has to be made all the time, in real formation flying or in the sim.

Hi JG77, thanks for your reply. Yes, I'm flying in VR and indeed, I find it much easier in general than when I played the original Sturmovik simulator, using a hat-switch to change my views.  I think it has to do mostly with depth perception as I remember trying 3D with anaglyph glasses and it improved  my gunnery skills quite noticeably.  It is valuable to know that the path I must seek is that of constant adjustments.  I suppose that with enough practice, the adjustments become minor and -hopefully- subconscious.   

 

Cheers!

S

15 hours ago, busdriver said:

 

Make small corrections. A few techniques...light pressure on the stick don't try to squeeze it so hard that buttons pop off.

1) It would help immensely to have your airplane trimmed up (trimmed for hands off straight and level flight) for the airspeed you're flying. 

2) Try wiggling your fingers (takes the tension out of your hand) periodically.

2) Wiggle your toes periodically.

4) One RL technique that some guys taught in USAF UPT was while in close formation to "stir the stick" in a very small/tiny circle.  

 

Close formation flying is hard WORK requiring constant correction. Tactical formation is much easier.

Hi busdriver, thank you very much for the tips!  

That "stirring the stick" sounds promising and very sound advice, I'll give it a try.

Cheers!

 

S

14 hours ago, JimTM said:

A couple of tips:

Hi Jim!

Thank you very much for your relaxing tip and for those videos.  I have learnt A LOT from Requiem's videos, yet I somehow missed the existence of formation tutorial videos entirely.

Cheers!

S

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15 hours ago, busdriver said:

 

...

1) It would help immensely to have your airplane trimmed up (trimmed for hands off straight and level flight) for the airspeed you're flying. 

...

 

Should you trim during turns (short or long)?

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8 hours ago, 56RAF_Roblex said:

The major problem in close formations is judging the closing speed and distances though that is supposedly easier in VR.   I find the most important lesson is to avoid large movement of the throttle. You cannot just zoom into the correct position then instantly drop down to your leaders airspeed so you must make allowances for how long it will take you to bleed off excess speed by doing the final approach very slowly.    With a human leader it helps if he advised you what speed he is maintaining and keeps it steady.  With AI they wont tell you but they do at least hold it very steady.  If you are flying an online mission with AI and it has an airstart then you will already be at the correct speed so make a note of what that is before disengaging autopilot.   They will usually return to that speed whenever they are cruising.   Similarly, do not make large rolling movements to adjust your spacing. For small adjustments try using your rudder only.     One last tip that may not be recommended by RL instructors is that if I see I am about to overshoot my leader when rejoining,  I use large left & right rudder inputs to wag my tail which kills speed fast.

 

Hi Roblex, thanks for your tips too!

I have developed  more or less my throttle control (keeping steady distance a few feet away from the leader), although sometimes it happens that the AI can drop speed so fast, that I overshoot even if drop my throttle to idle (this typically happens on bombing missions, when nearing the target area), this is where probably  your rudder-jiggling trick may come handy!.  Where I struggle the most is in keeping my relative formation position, especially during turns. I am constantly using rudder and elevator control trying to keep the leader on the same spot in the windshield and never, ever have I been able to coordinate those turns.

Cheers!

S

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41 minutes ago, JimTM said:

 

Should you trim during turns (short or long)?

 

I do not. I did not in RL. Why? Technique I suppose one could argue. Trimming is all about reducing stick pressure. IMO without force feedback a player has to crosscheck his instruments and essentially let go of the stick to see if his trim input worked. 

 

20 minutes ago, sgorozco37 said:

Where I struggle the most is in keeping my relative formation position, especially during turns. I am constantly using rudder and elevator control trying to keep the leader on the same spot in the windshield and never, ever have I been able to coordinate those turns.

 

Perhaps, rather than trying to keep your leader in the same spot on the canopy, think in terms of lining up parts of leader's airplane to triangulate your position. What do I mean? Next time you are in formation in QM or SP hit pause whilst in a good position. Now look at how different parts of the leader's airframe line up. For example, where is the fuselage marking (star, roundel, cross) in relation to the wingtip of the far wing? Or where is the tip of the tail in relation to the far wingtip? Or where is some antenna in relationship to markings on the wing? Or where is leader's head (canopy) in relation to the near horizontal stabilizer?

 

This triangulation will help you achieve your desired fore/aft as well as lateral spacing. Do I have any specific suggestions? Not really, I tend to fly in a "patrol" position (about .3 to .5 if you're using icons to check) rather than "close formation." But if you watch Requiem's videos you may catch some clues.

Edited by busdriver
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25 minutes ago, busdriver said:

Perhaps, rather than trying to keep your leader in the same spot on the canopy, think in terms of lining up parts of leader's airplane to triangulate your position. What do I mean? Next time you are in formation in QM or SP hit pause whilst in a good position. Now look at how different parts of the leader's airframe line up. For example, where is the fuselage marking (star, roundel, cross) in relation to the wingtip of the far wing? Or where is the tip of the tail in relation to the far wingtip? Or where is some antenna in relation ship to markings on the wing? Or where is leader's head (canopy) in relation to the near horizontal stabilizer?

Oh, I see,  so I should focus more on trying to keep the same "visual-profile" of the leader... interesting.  :fly:

I'm glad I asked for experienced advice!  - Remembering my dad's driving lesson I had a strong gut feeling I may be learning it wrong (my wife and a cousin of mine, for example, did not develop the skill and are constantly correcting their steering during a tight curve, and although they don't seem to notice it, it is quite uncomfortable as a passenger  :P).

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Air to air refueling in DCS took me several weeks of solid practice to learn. It’s not easy. It’s means really understanding that every control you touch afffects something else. Pitch up makes you climb but also slow down, throttle makes you change speed and climb or decend etc. It’s learning to anticipate everything and not just react to it, which leads to oscilating out of control. Then it all becomes second nature and you don’t think about it, like riding a bicycle. So yes it gets better with practice. 

 

As usual, this is the best stuff to learn from

 

 

Edited by SharpeXB
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1 hour ago, SharpeXB said:

Air to air refueling in DCS took me several weeks of solid practice to learn. It’s not easy. It’s means really understanding that every control you touch afffects something else. Pitch up makes you climb but also slow down, throttle makes you change speed and climb or decend etc. It’s learning to anticipate everything and not just react to it, which leads to oscilating out of control. Then it all becomes second nature and you don’t think about it, like riding a bicycle. So yes it gets better with practice. 

Glad to read this!  You nailed it,  my approach at this moment is 100% reactive and I'm constantly oscilating.  It requires so much attention that I can barely do any other task, like spotting planes :P

Quote

As usual, this is the best stuff to learn from

 

 

Great video!  It supports @busdriver's suggestion of concentrating on fixating the aspect of the plane rather than the position in the canopy.  

Thanks!!!

S

Edited by sgorozco37
fixed typo

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17 hours ago, 56RAF_Roblex said:

 judging the closing speed and distances though that is supposedly easier in VR. 

 

 

Focus on aligning the edge of your propeller with the wingtip of the flight lead and your mind will take care of the rest.

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Flying with VR goggles seems to be such a great experience! However how do you guys deal with all the keyboard commands? I imagine that with VR you have to keep constantly peeking out of it to hit correctly any of the many, many buttons required by a sim like this.

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1 hour ago, Y-29.Silky said:

 

Focus on aligning the edge of your propeller with the wingtip of the flight lead and your mind will take care of the rest.

 

Can you post a screenshot of what you're saying?

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Posted (edited)

 

I love formation flying.  Flying formation with the AI is tougher because they don't tell you what they're going to do and they won't adjust speed to help you out if you screw up the formation.  You should trying getting online and fly with a human leading the formation.

 

 

If you really want a challenge, try formation landings.

 

 

Edited by BraveSirRobin
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On 3/1/2019 at 5:21 AM, Izel said:

 

I'm glad I asked for experienced advice!  - Remembering my dad's driving lesson I had a strong gut feeling I may be learning it wrong (my wife and a cousin of mine, for example, did not develop the skill and are constantly correcting their steering during a tight curve, and although they don't seem to notice it, it is quite uncomfortable as a passenger  :P).

 

Bit OT, but: if you watch a race car driver's hands in a corner it's anything but smooth.   More like a boxer unleashing a flurry of jabs.   Although if your wife is driving on the limit like that I'm not surprised it's uncomfortable.

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On 2/28/2019 at 12:35 PM, busdriver said:

 

I do not. I did not in RL. Why? Technique I suppose one could argue. Trimming is all about reducing stick pressure. IMO without force feedback a player has to crosscheck his instruments and essentially let go of the stick to see if his trim input worked. 

 

 

Perhaps, rather than trying to keep your leader in the same spot on the canopy, think in terms of lining up parts of leader's airplane to triangulate your position. What do I mean? Next time you are in formation in QM or SP hit pause whilst in a good position. Now look at how different parts of the leader's airframe line up. For example, where is the fuselage marking (star, roundel, cross) in relation to the wingtip of the far wing? Or where is the tip of the tail in relation to the far wingtip? Or where is some antenna in relationship to markings on the wing? Or where is leader's head (canopy) in relation to the near horizontal stabilizer?

 

This triangulation will help you achieve your desired fore/aft as well as lateral spacing. Do I have any specific suggestions? Not really, I tend to fly in a "patrol" position (about .3 to .5 if you're using icons to check) rather than "close formation." But if you watch Requiem's videos you may catch some clues.

 

Old comment, but...

 

In my previous life I drove buoy tenders...the first of which was from 1943 and had no special steering or propulsion, just a propeller, rudder, and bow thruster. No GPS or anything fancy like that to help with maneuvering the ship or with putting the large buoys into position...in fact we used horizontal sextant angles between surveyed terrestrial objects run through a computer to determine where we were in relation to the buoy's assigned position with a surprising level of accuracy. Unfortunately there was a bit of a delay so we'd have to be able to hold the ship in place while the numbers crunched. A big part of the job was keeping the ship in one spot, or to be able to move it a few yards at a time as we tried to stay on top of the chain as it was pulled up or find the "x" where we wanted to drop the sinker when we were done servicing it.

 

What's my point? To do that, we used the same triangulation that you're talking about...we called it using "natural ranges". Pick a nearby object on shore and one in the distance and observe how they line up and move in relation to each other. The motion of the farther object is how the observer is moving. This can indicate with a surprising level of accuracy what is happening (one ahead shows lateral movement, one to the side shows fore and aft movement)...sometimes sensitive enough that you could tell a difference by moving your head a couple of feet. Even when we got differential GPS and fancy dynamic positioning controls, natural ranges could be just as good or even better in terms of instant feedback if the geometry was right.

 

Of course an important consideration was to choose objects that are actually stationary, LOL. One time I picked an object on a pier in Jacksonville that was actually a shipping-container crane that was slowly rolling down the pier. Not good.

 

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk 🤣

 

FB_IMG_1591786516781.jpg.0a8883909b0a9e02c33be8ec046ff081.jpg

(April, 1995. Not exactly the Blue Angels, but close. One of the light blue dots on the bridge of WLB 291 is me.)

 

FB_IMG_1591786542815.jpg.c4bba521d129f4d448d7490909f5f00c.jpg

 

(I actually just found this photo today...both of my seagoing buoy tenders in one shot. The 225' newer ship was far more capable and had better accommodations, but the 180' on the left was a work of art and handled very nicely).

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Posted (edited)

My best advice is to be patient with your corrections.

Are you drifting to far right? Don't try to get back in the correct position straight away.

Instead, make a small adjustment to the left and then wait.

Are you now drifting towards the correct location? Great! If not, make another small adjustment and wait more.

 

It's far, far better to make an adjustment too small and need to make another one than it is to make an adjustment too big and need to adjust in the other direction.

 

5.jpg

Edited by [DBS]Browning
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17 hours ago, BraveSirRobin said:

If you really want a challenge, try formation landings.

 

That was cool:salute:  We're still working on ours.....

 

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1 hour ago, DD_Arthur said:

 

That was cool:salute:  We're still working on ours.....

 


The Blue Angels used to land 4 in the diamond formation.  They don’t do that any more.  Probably for the reasons demonstrated in your video.

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Posted (edited)

Old topic but the worst one can do is formation flying with ai. 
Perfect formation is made by the whole team. Left turn left plane sliw down and right increase. Ai either fly top speed and go full stop on waypoints and slow down so much that you need to use flaps in order to stay a’loft

Edited by 216th_LuseKofte
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A competent flight/section leader is also very important.  They need to remember they have command of the formation and must relay course, speed (MP/RPM/etc). heading as well as adjustments to their wingman in a timely and consistent manner.  Other than that, join an online squadron and learn to fly with others.  Often, flying with the same people you learn techniques that don’t translate from the printed word to actual flying.

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20 minutes ago, 352ndOscar said:

A competent flight/section leader is also very important.  They need to remember they have command of the formation and must relay course, speed (MP/RPM/etc). heading as well as adjustments to their wingman in a timely and consistent manner.  Other than that, join an online squadron and learn to fly with others.  Often, flying with the same people you learn techniques that don’t translate from the printed word to actual flying.

 

This is a GREAT point that can't be stressed enough.  I've seen many attempts at online formation flying where the leader just guns the throttle and then can;'t understand why everyone else can't form up on him.  Very important for flight leaders to fly a bit below normal cruise throttle settings, and be VERY smooth on their transitions to different headings and/or altitudes, announcing them in advance if at all possible. 

 

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15 hours ago, flagdjmetcher said:

 

Bit OT, but: if you watch a race car driver's hands in a corner it's anything but smooth.   More like a boxer unleashing a flurry of jabs.   Although if your wife is driving on the limit like that I'm not surprised it's uncomfortable.

LOL, picture those flurry jabs, but @ 40MPH  ;)

2 hours ago, Bremspropeller said:

 

Anyways, back to topic:

It may sound funny, but what I found out for myself is that "looking through" the lead airplane and having one's mind wander off does a lot to relax oneself and easing up the whole formation-excercise. Kind of like driving "on autopilot" on the freeway.

 

Yes! it's been a while now since I started this thread, and I now experience what you describe. I find myself constantly correcting, tiny inputs, but my mind is  now focused on scanning looking for contacts.  

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Is the distance between the aircrafts in a formation flown by the AI more or less realistic in the game?

I'd like to have them not so tight, to prevent collisions in the air.

 

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8 hours ago, vonGraf said:

Is the distance between the aircrafts in a formation flown by the AI more or less realistic in the game?

I'd like to have them not so tight, to prevent collisions in the air.

 

 

There isn't a single answer to this question. All kinds of formations at all kinds of distances were flown in the war.

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On 2/27/2019 at 3:36 PM, Izel said:

I remember when my dad taught me how to drive,  he would chastise me if I corrected my steering wheel position after entering a curve.  He said something on the lines of "if the curve is well designed, you should turn your wheel, find the 'sweet spot', and maintain that position until you exit the curve - if my head boobs laterally during the curve (as a result of corrections), you are doing it wrong".  I learnt the skill, noting that on many cars, the steering wheel gives a very discrete feedback in the form of a minor resistance when reaching the sweet spot.

 

Clearly not driving on the limit.  ;)

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'Look ma, no gliders'

 

 

 

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Speaking personally, my formation flying skills started dramatically improving after buying the F/A-18C module in DCS. I got obsessed with "getting good" at mid-air refueling and practiced it nearly every night.

 

A lot of the skills in judging distance, approach rate, etc. carry over from one experience to the other. The next time I started doing formation work in IL-2, I was surprised by how much I had improved.

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Posted (edited)

keep in mind that the AI like to cut the throttle, put it back to max, cut it again, instead of just letting to a normal setting. That makes keeping formation a bit more difficult.

Edited by Sybreed

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I see quite a bit of know-how went into this thread already. My advice would also be too get online and practice with humans. It's a lot more fun, and more predictable. Also, don't get too obsessed of maintaining formation, think of the mission goal first. The closet the formation, the more you have to focus on just that task. Many pilots have been shot down while maintaining a beautiful formation. We fly in combat spread formation most of the time, i.e. wing and lead fly parallel, between 500-2000m apart. Not losing each other can be challenging though. The lead should prepare the wrong for any upcoming changes in heading, power setting, etc. The go-to turn geometry is usually the tactical turn, sometimes the cross turn. When my wing is way out to my right, however, and I wanna do an in place turn, I'll call him in close beforehand, so I don't lose him.

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