The San Diego Salute Formation Team flies a number of different formations for flyovers including those shown below.
A long standing tradition, the Missing Man flyover typically consists of two passes, one in a Diamond formation, and a second in Fingertip formation where one aircraft pulls sharply upwards and departs the formation while the rest of the flight continues on-heading. With the pull up, the Missing Man aircraft is honoring the person who has passed and reflects their departure to the heavens, with the remaining aircraft signifying those left behind.
The sights and sounds of the Missing Man pass, as the Missing Man pulls up and away with the remaining aircraft continuing on with the open formation position is a visceral, profound and moving tribute.
As few as four aircraft can establish the formation and conventionally the largest number is sixteen, in “tight formation”: 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1. Rarely attempted on jet aircraft, this feat was first achieved by the Pakistan Air Force flying U.S.-made F-86 Sabres in February 1958. It is considered a difficult formation as the aircraft have to fly very close to each other to create the desired effect. The larger the number of aircraft involved, the higher the risk (as compared to other formations).
An echelon formation is a (usually military) formation in which its units are arranged diagonally. Each unit is stationed behind and to the right (a “right echelon”), or behind and to the left (“left echelon”), of the unit ahead. The name of the formation comes from the French word échelon, meaning a rung of a ladder, which describes the shape that this formation has when viewed from above or below.
The Vic formation is a formation devised for military aircraft and first used during World War I. It comprises three or sometimes more aircraft flying in close formation with the leader at the apex and the rest of the flight en echelon to left and right, the whole resembling the letter “V”. The name is derived from the term for the letter V in the phonetic alphabet of the time. It is still in use today, though it has been superseded or replaced in some circumstances.
The formation consists of a flight of four aircraft, composed of a “lead element” and a “second element”, each of two aircraft. When viewing the formation from above, the positions of the planes resemble the tips of the four fingers of a human right hand (without the thumb), giving the formation its name.
The lead element is made up of the flight leader at the very front of the formation and one wingman to his rear left. The second element is made up of an additional two planes, the element leader and his wingman. The element leader is to the right and rear of the flight leader, followed by the element wingman to his right and rear.