Parade Position


  • Used in congested areas, takeoff rendezvous, IMC, battle damage checks, traffic patterns, instrument conditions, airfield entries, demonstrations, etc.
  • The perfect parade position is transitory
  • Defined as the intersection of the reference line with the bearing line
  • Always maintain a good inside/outside scan (mission crosscheck)
  • Smooth is best; jerky motions will displace the aircraft, but do nothing to move its position
  • Wingtip overlap must be avoided for safety

All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Sixteen Harrier Aircraft Fly in Formation to Mark Retirement from Service (UK)
Figure 1: Sixteen Harrier Aircraft Fly in Formation to Mark Retirement from Service (UK)


  • Provides good visual communication between aircraft, making it easier for the lead to maintain positive control
  • Minimum use of airspace
  • Presents a professional military appearance


  • Less maneuverable than a single aircraft or a tactical formation
  • The wingman constantly adjusts power, which results in fatigue and higher fuel consumption
  • It restricts the wingman's lookout doctrine

Relative Motion:

  • As wing, attempt to "zero out" motion
  • Scan the entire aircraft, not just the key locations
    • Elevator controls vertical movement
    • Power controls fore and aft movement
    • Aileron controls lateral movement
  • When flying multi-plane forms, flying with increased lateral separation will reduce the relative motions making it easier to fly a smooth platform


  • Corrections should be slight (as you gain experience you can do all 3 simultaneously)
  • Corrections require 3 separate actions: ("3 part power corrections")
    • Initiate movement toward the desired position
    • Arrest the aircraft's momentum once the position has been achieved
    • Maintain the desired position
      • A: Step down
      • B: Bearing
      • C: Relative closeness
      F-18's In Balanced Parade
      Figure 2: F-18's In Balanced Parade
  • Acute: forward of the bearing line
  • Sucked: aft of the bearing line
  • Can be with both power and aileron to maintain that bearing line

Balanced Parade:

  • After joining up in echelon, three and four plane formations will normally be placed in balance parade formation
    • Dash-2 will "auto balance"
    • Dash-3 will step out until the exhaust nozzles on Dash-2 are flush
    • This will leave enough space between Dash-3 and Lead for
      Dash-2 to cross under into echelon
  • Turns:
    • Dash-3 steps out opposite the formation of Dash-2, far enough back so that Dash-2's exhaust nozzles are flush, on lead's bearing line (bearing and step-down on lead, nose-to-tail off Dash-2)
    • Dash-4 in parade on Dash-3

Fingertip Parade:

  • When it is necessary to enter IFR conditions with a three or four plane formation, the lead will direct the flight to assume fingertip formation
  • Dash-3 moves up directly opposite Dash-2 on lead into close parade on the lead
  • All turns are instrument "welded wing" turns

F-18 Fingertip Formation
Figure 3: F-18's In Fingertip Formation


  • Try not to over control the aircraft
  • Trim the aircraft
  • Brace your forearm on your knee board (rudders set back to provide higher knees)
  • Relax! Try wiggling your fingers and toes - it's magic, it works!
  • Control your breathing
  • Walk the throttles and use small movements of the stick
  • If you start to PIO, don't fix it all at once; stop the PIO then move back into position
  • Scan lead, front to back, continuously
  • Bring up the HUD on the DDI closest to lead to judge relative attitude