C-17s taxi before take-off to test the formation flight system, which enables the C-17 pilot to monitor and fly the aircraft in formation with other C-17s at the same altitude and distance in any weather condition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Densmore)
by Kenji Thuloweit
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/15/2010 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The 418th Flight Test Squadron conducted flight tests to evaluate modifications made to the C-17 Globemaster III formation flight system, Sept. 14.
The flight test required multiple C-17s to fly in formation to test and validate how the FFS performs.
The FFS enables the pilot to monitor and fly the aircraft in formation with other C-17s at the same altitude and distance in any weather condition.
The C-17 has a basic mission requirement to be able to fly large-scale formations, both in the clear and through the clouds. The purpose is to be able to deliver a sizeable force of both personnel and their equipment into a hostile environment with speed and accuracy.
The lead pilot is responsible for sending information electronically through the system to the other C-17s so the entire formation is flying at the proper speed and altitude.
This seven-ship flight test is a build-up of previous tests. Initially, the formation flight system was tested at Edwards in the summer of 2008. Later it was tested at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., in four-ship formation. Last year at Edwards, the 418th FLTS conducted flight tests using a six-ship formation.
In addition to an Edwards' C-17, Air Mobility Command provided six C-17s for this week's tests; three from McChord AFB, Wash., and three from Charleston AFB, S.C.
The squadron is scheduled to fly a second formation test Sept. 16 with follow-on testing next week.