1. The brief and de-brief form an essential part of the CONTRACT between the team members of a formation flight. It is imperative that a full brief applicable to the proposed formation flight be conducated with all flight members present. What does lead do if all flight members are not present?
The flight CANNOT take place until a full brief has been conducted with all flight members present. This is a MANDATORY requirement from a SAFETY OF FLIGHT perspective.
2. Are Standard Operating Procedures an option if flight members fly together regularly in the same area?
This is open to debate . . .
Formation flight under the FAST regime imposes certain SOP’s which are known to all flight members. For example - FAST rules state that #2 shall always rejoin on the inside of a turn, unless briefed otherwise. The key thing here is “briefed” and it is lead’s responsibility to make sure ALL flight members are ‘on the same page’ before the flight takes place. So even if a lead decides to use a form of SOP this should always be briefed.
For example: it could be that a flight regularly uses the same area to practice break and re-joins. There may well be an agreed protocol for where to recover if a ‘lost sight’ procedure is activated and visual sight cannot be regained on the flight by the pilot involved. The full brief may be “Lost Sight Procedure - Goofy Flight will reform over Lake Ashby if sight is lost by a team member after any maneuver. Lead will orbit anti-clockwise at 2000 ft and each flight member will step down 200 ft in the same orbit. Lead will direct the ‘lost sight’ team member by radio on how to rejoin and how the flight will proceed once all team members are in the same orbit”. An acceptable SOP during the brief may be for lead to say “Goofy Flight, lost sight SOP rejoin at Lake Ashby”. But the SOP should still be briefed.
3. You are out flying and you hear a buddy you regularly fly with ‘on frequency’ asking to join up for an ‘ad hoc’ formation flight. Is it acceptable to conduct a brief in the air?
The answer is NO, NO, NO. The brief should always be conducted on the ground before a flight takes place.
4. A flight is over and no issues were noted by lead. All flight members have landed, but the flight has taken longer than planned and #2 needs to get away for an urgent meeting. What does lead do?
Lead is the person in charge of the flight with the responsibility to assess, critique and correct, via the debrief, wingman performance in all maneuvers. A formation flight is not completed until a de-brief has taken place and this requires all flight members to be present. It is an essential part of the CONTRACT between ALL members of a formation flight that each flight member always has more than sufficient time to undertake a full brief, the flight AND a de-brief. NEVER attempt to shortcut any aspect of the flight.