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Funeral Overflight & Missing Man Formation

Air Show Events - Formation Flying

Our highly trained Red Star Association pilot squadron conducts event flyovers in formation. Generally, we will perform one to four passes in different formations. Each pass is conducted at 1000 feet above the ground - as required by the FAA. If the event is at an airfield of sufficient size, the flight can recover at the field and provide a static display.

As a precision warbird mass formation display team, we are are available for air shows in the Arizona and sometimes beyond, staffed by FAA qualified warbird formation pilots that have been trained and evaluated to the standards of the RedStar Pilots Association (RPA), a member of the National FAA Formation And Safety Team (FAST).

Formation flying demands an exceptionally high level of pilot skill; it's demanding, disciplined, rewarding, and a lot of fun. Getting up close and personal with other airplanes is why many of us learned to fly in the first place. Read more...

Funeral Overflight - Arizona

Missing Man Formation

The Missing Man formation is an aerial salute honoring a person who has died, performed as an aircraft flyover at a funeral or memorial event. The formation is sometimes called the Missing Man Flyby or Missing Man Flypast. In all variations of this demonstration, the "missing" aircraft acts as a designation of the person who has passed away, symbolizing their departure to the heavens.

"The heartfelt response from the crowd goes beyond explanation. When that single plane pulls up with smoke on and flies off alone into the horizon as if never to be seen again, there is a profound unrehearsed moment of silence. Even the most stoic soul among those on the ground involuntarily sheds a tear over the helplessness and finality of losing of their dear friend. I've never experienced anything like it. Truly profound. I'll never forget it."

Several variants of the Missing Man formation are seen. The formation most commonly used by our team is based on the "finger-four" aircraft combat formation composed of two two-aircraft elements. The aircraft fly in a V-shape with the flight leader at the point and his wingman on his left. The second element leader and his wingman fly to his right. The formation flies over the ceremony low enough to be clearly seen and the second element leader turns on his smoke and abruptly pulls up and out of the formation, heading off in a different direction, while the rest of the formation continues in level flight until all aircraft are out of sight.

In an older variant the Missing Man formation is flown with the second element leader position conspicuously empty. In another variation, the flight approaches from the south, preferably near sundown, and one of the aircraft will suddenly split off to the west, flying into the sunset.

Not Just for the Military

Our Missing Man formation is available to anyone wishing to add a profound visual effect to the process of saying final good-byes to a loved one. You nor anyone in your group or family need be military or even a pilot of any sort.

To schedule a Missing Man flyover or have further questions answered please contact us. Work requirements usually constrain our flyovers to Saturday or Sunday, but exceptions are sometimes possible. Flights are available most anywhere throughout Arizona and occasionally beyond.

Short History of Missing Man Formation

The Missing Man formation is believed to have begun by British fighter pilots during World War II and evolved into a ceremonial tradition as part of the Royal Air Force programs. The formation was first shown publicly for a non-RAF funeral by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1936 in honor of King George V. At that time this flight maneuver involved a squadron of aircraft with a single plane missing from the beginning at takeoff, rather than a plane leaving the formation in flight.

The United States adopted the tradition in 1938 during the funeral for Major General Oscar Westover involving over 50 aircraft and one blank file. The Missing Man formation in the United States was seldom used until the Second Indochina War, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia when the public at large was encouraged to be allowed within viewing distance.

IIn April 1954, United States Air Force General Hoyt Vandenberg was buried at Arlington National Cemetery without the traditional horse-drawn artillery caisson. Instead, Vandenberg was honored by a flyover of jet aircraft with one plane missing from the formation.

The USAF Thunderbirds were the first military aerobatics team to ever perform the maneuver. They flew it for the first time to honor the men and women who were then POWs in Vietnam. Aerial demonstration squadrons have now adopted the formation and perform it during ceremonial events such as National POW-MIA Recognition Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

In December 2004, as a final tribute to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands's former military role in the Royal Netherlands Air Force, three modern F-16 jet fighters and a World War II Spitfire performed a missing man formation during his funeral.

The missing man formation was flown at a family memorial service in Indian Hill, Ohio on 31 August 2012 in honour of former American astronaut, US Navy pilot, and test pilot Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

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The time-honored Missing Man formation is typically flown over the funeral location just after the service, over the interment, or over the memorial celebration following. Flights are conducted in accordance with FAA regulations at no less than 1000 feet above ground level.

A pass is first made in diamond formation, followed by the Missing Man Formation. As the flight passes overhead, the #3 wingman, trailing white smoke pulls skyward from the formation then banks out of sight signifying The Missing Man.

The remaining three aircraft hold course, leaving open the position left by their missing wingman. The impact is profoundly moving.

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