Now Here Is Something I'm Afraid to Do Myself

My friend Bruce Williams was through 15 years at Microsoft one of the main figures behind the development of Microsoft Flight Simulator. (Yes, I also know and love X-Plane.) For much longer than that he has been an accomplished pilot, flight instructor, and aviation writer.

Here is a video he has just posted showing a from-the-cockpit view of a close-formation training flight. It's shot over the Nevada desert, and it is full of surprising touches -- for instance, an aerial view of a big solar-power facility.

One sign to me (of many) of my own amateur-only status as a pilot is my goal of staying as far away as possible from any other aircraft that might be in the sky, rather than crowding right next to them as in this clip. Another sign is that while I have done aerobatic flights for safety training I don't really like them or think they're fun, and prefer to get the airplane as uneventfully as possible from point A to point B. But this video, which first makes me think "I would never do that!" after a while gives rise to thoughts of, "Wow, they can do that!"

After the jump, a description by Williams of what we're seeing in the clip. Worth watching for the gee-whiz factor. And, as he pointed out to me, it's a break from depressing political news.

Bruce Williams writes:

Here's a YouTube video of a formation practice flight from Tuesday morning [two days ago] near Boulder City, NV (KBVU).

This was a two-ship flight with my primary formation-flying mentor. He flew F-4s, F-5s, and F-16s in the Air Force after serving as a T-38 instructor. He has lots of experience teaching formation flying (and as you'll see in videos to come, the basics of air combat maneuvers--his last assignment in the Air Force was as an Agressor squadron commander, playing the bad guys to train US and allied fighter pilots at Red Flag, etc.).

Lead was in his RV-6A. Another Extra, this one a 330LX (the newest model and successor to the 300L that I fly), joined us for a little while. That red airplane was flown by another Air Force fighter pilot. He flies F-15s in a test squadron at Nellis AFB. We coordinated the rendezvous before the flight, and lead cleared him in after we established contact in the air. He stayed just a little while before he headed off for the rest of his planned flight.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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