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Watch Airbus' mad stunt with $1.5 billion worth of airplanes

I have to give kudos to Airbus for having the guts to do this using five test A350-900 XWB airplanes, its newest wide-body airliner. I know the stunt was well calculated and the pilots—all of them ex-military aviators—knew exactly what they were doing, but the entire thing still looks reckless. ( More...

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btweston 15
"I know everything is fine, but why not raise some alarm so that people will click on this article?"

It's sad that, rather than simply reporting on a pretty cool and totally unique occurrence, they have to douche it up with scariness. Thanks, money, for making our world so... Ah, hell with it.
cholubaz 23
This was anything but a "Stunt" How about a well planned choreographed formation flight flown by some of the best Airbus captains in the world. The media loves to hype crap up. #clickbait
ken young 6
I agree with you.
Let's face it, even Blue Angels shows are choreographed right down to the second..
In any event, this was fun to watch.
Jon Bauer 4
Absolutely correct Chris! It has been 39 years since I flew a fighter in a diamond flyby. This video got to me. Slot was my favorite position. Second slot would be even more fun. Those ABs looked as stable as rocks... with about the same inertia! I'm guessing both cockpit seats got stick/throttle time depending on which side they were on.

Any fighter driver would recognize the good briefing. eg. sight picture for holding formation,the "hand flying" in the briefing and keeping everyone on the same page.

Inflight it sounds like "lead" was calling the breaks, etc. A smooth leader makes it look easy.

The break from the Arrow was my favorite, especially with lead's pullup.

Yes, it's a shame those who can't "do" make the dumb, no make that stupid comments in the media.
preacher1 9
10 days prior the briefing started. It was anything but a "stunt"; a well thought out and choreographed flight plan. Kudos to Airbus. Regardless of brand and your personal preference, you can't deny beauty and grace.
RetAF 1

48 years ago I remember four ship formation in T38s with three solo students!

"God looks after fools, drunks and 2nd Lt's in T38'!"

Webb AFB, Class 68C.
Jon Bauer 1
Keep the light on the star!

Formation flying was often challenging (night weather penetrations in SEA with 5-10 foot visibility), but usually satisfying (probe a d drogue refuelling across the Pacific and a diamond flyover to celebrate a good ORI).

I recently watched the Thunderbirds do their "flat show". We get to see more of the close formation than when they do the high show with the vertical maneuvers. Never thought about that before. Enjoyed it.

T-birds performed at Moody AFB in one of their last F-100 shows just as I got my F-100 assignment out of Class 69-07. Solo's dirty roll on takeoff in the Hun still makes me pucker!

Preacher, our designated bail-out area was the Okefenokee swamp! You needed survival school training if you landed there.
preacher1 1
Every newer film you watch about the Bermuda Triangle now is that Flight 39 wound up in there rather than out in the ocean. Either way, we'll never know. A few years ago, I spent a few days with a friend of mine from Brunswick. We went out in some of it 2-3 days and I can definitely agree on the survival school training.LOL
preacher1 1
Well, at least ya'll had the wide open space of West Texas to crash in. LOL
Richard Cliff 1
Hi Jon. Hope things are going well. Do you happen to have a digital copy of the 69-07 yearbook ? Handy item. Please drop me a note when convenient. Regards. Rick Cliff [email protected]
preacher1 2
Preacher. No other way to contact you. My apologies.
I very much appreciate your seasoned comments on this forum and understand some of the health challenges you have had this year. I will not be alone in wishing you improved health in 2015 and peace and tranquility whatever live brings us in 2015. It is a turbulent world out there but there is much good as well.
Merry Christmas to you and your family
preacher1 2
Same to ya'll. I think health wise I'm doing decent. I go back to LIT for a procedure to try and get my voice back but other than that, OK. I ran out of anything to do anyway and no interest in recreational flying, but my cert is basically gone. I been on waivers for several years for my diabetes and started insulin a few days ago. Based on what I have read, besides turning 65 which kills the ATP, taking that insulin I can't even pass a 3rd class physical for a ppl or anything. Like I said, I didn't have a hankering anyway and neither does the family and the boys from FSM will take me up every now and then. Ya'll have a wonderful holiday season.
James Bryan 1
We would love to have you in the cockpit in the CAP
preacher1 1
Well, there is a chapter or 2 that is pretty active here in Western AR. I may be looking into that in times to come. I hadn't thought about it but it would be good going up ever now and then.
thegoodguy 11
Not an Airbus fan, BUT that was nice.
Tom Lyons 7
I would imagine large aircraft flying in formation would elict bad memories in some older Europeans.
preacher1 1
probably so
rsmath 6
Blue Angels or Thunderbirds, they ain't! ;)

but interesting to see a passenger jet pull off some of those maneuvers.
Just watched the video. While it's not unusual for military/government aircraft to fly in formation, seeing 5 passenger planes in similar formations made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. If there was an Emmy award for this kind of video, I would be at the head of the line to nominate it as well as the flight crews and all involved. Wish I was there for the low pass since it must have been deafening, not to mention a terrific photo-op. Definitely a place in my bookmarks folder!
Ok that was pretty awesome
Agreed the photography top shelf
Airbus did a great job
T Economou 4
Awesome!!! Imagine different uniforms, different time (WWII), different aircraft (flying fortress).... It was simply awesome to see Airbus execute it so beautifully. Thank you!
I think the whole deal was well done. It's not really fair to compare the pilots' performance flying a 350 to the precision a good pilot can attain with a fighter-type aircraft. There are three large factors at play here:

1. The flight control laws of the 350 are definitely NOT optimized to permit flying. That's a big deal in any fly-by-wire airplane. For instance, when we are testing the F-16 in the 1970's, we finally settled on the need to have the electronics give the pilot three different "flight control systems" One for takeoff-landing, one for air refueling and one for formation. That may have changed in subsequent versions of the airplane) At the same time, while flying the T-38, F-4 and F-104, I was also involved in air refueling tests for the B-52 and C-5. We "practiced" in the B-52G. On the first flight, with no briefing or instruction, the instructor-pilot sat in the right seat and the only sound he made was near continuous laughter as the fighter-types tried to get into a stabilized "slot" position behind a straight-and-level KC-135 flying at 280 KIAS. Talk about inertia! And sore muscles

2. The side-stick controller. A right-handed pilot using his left hand (and vice-versa) requires a good amount of practice to get the fine muscle-motor control needed for formation flying. A whole different set of muscles are used than when flying "regular" maneuvers.

3. The engines: When I first flew the F-111 in formation, it was quickly evident that a fan engine (e.g., TF-30) had a different response to small throttle movement than did a turbojet. And the larger the fan, the bigger the difference. I can't imagine trying to hold position with a couple of Trents or GE90s under my fingers.

As a not aside, when you're the second through the ?? airplane on the wing in an echelon, the more you've got to work to convince your mind that you're not too close. Photos of most formations where there's more than one airplane on the wing will show the succeeding aircraft increasingly wide. The Thunderbirds and Blues usea pilot on the ground during both practice and during a show to watch for this and call a correction over the radio (e.g., "#5, three feet out.") It would take an awful lot of Jet A-1 to tune up 10 pilots to that level of precision.

All in all, a fine job. But "RECKLESS?" Yeah, maybe if they did a diamond barrel roll with 20 feet of wingtip overlap at an altitude of 200 ft at the bottom. All the test pilots I know of who were "Reckless" in any airplane. for even a moment are all dead now. Anyone with reckless tendencies in their approach to flying are washed out of the test pilot school. Allow about a week for the paperwork to clear.
Jon Bauer 1
Very good points Peter.

Like most activities involving coordination of mind and body, practice and more practice gets both working together. Whenever I transitioned into a new aircraft there was a learning curve for how small a "box" I could keep the aircraft in when flying on the wing. The TF41 fan in the A-7D took some getting used to in close formation or refuelling. It forced you to think farther ahead...not a bad thing. Tried "cheating" by using some speed brake to keep the fan spooled up where it reponded more readily.

We often speak of a pilot having "good hands" when he/she is an excellent flyer. My take is that is really a "good brain" which the hands obey. An artist can paint the same picture with the off-hand or even toes or a mouse holding the brush. Sure the line quality is initially shaky, but it improves with practice. It is in you head, not your hands.

Fully agree on the "Reckless" comment. Never a TP, but I lost friends who did rcekless things in fighters. That policy should apply everywhere in military flying. Not a bad idea for commercial either. My best friend, a USAF TP for many years, was the best pilot I ever knew. He also had one of the best "brains" I have ever met. Don always claimed being a left-handed fighter driver was a major advantage..he could read his clipboard notes postflight!

Yeah, it did look like 4 and 5 were farther out in echelon. Pilots probably notice that more than non-pilots.

Enjoyed your comments.
According to this media source a right 50 degree bank is a "mad stunt" apparently only suited for military pilots in "fighters". the author might be speechless to learn that this is a basic maneuver required of every commercial pilot certificate candidate.
preacher1 5
Simply amazing how some of these articles might read if the writer knew about what they were writing. Jack of all trades, master of none?
preacher1 4
It would surprise him to hear that because sometimes you gotta know how to make a Winnebago act like a 'Vette.
royalbfh 2
Your are so right. I guess every check ride that I have taken has several "mad stunts" involved/ Thank the lord that I survived!
casper jones 3
Marvelous, mission well planned and accomplished, congrats to all involved making it a success.
royalbfh 3
What the hell is a "Mad Stunt?" Why does it look reckless? Does this fool think that these guys just grabbed a few airliners and went for a joy ride? I am surprised that he didn't use "epic" or "what happened next will 'blow your mind'!!" And to call it a stunt? Formation flying? really? Whatever.....
preacher1 3
How can you call billions of dollars in aircraft, a chase plane and company photographer, and the days of planning that went into it, A MAD STUNT?
skippyscage 3
"Mad Stunt" - hardly, how about some proper reporting?
daveselvan 3
That is simply brilliant!!! Well done to the pilots.
Matt Allen 2
That was very cool
siriusloon 2
Nothing really new here. They've done this sort of thing before with a "one of each model" formation and with multiple A380s. Boeing's done this kind of thing, too.
preacher1 1
Seems to me that if you watch the whole video there are a few days of briefing and prep time as well. It is anything but a "mad stunt".
preacher1 1
Seems like the Red Roo did something similar a few months back with various type of aircraft.
usad 2
Yes, absolutely cool. If I had been doing this, I would have been more comfortable if Airbus would have temporarily installed a bubble canopy on these birds...would have made the formation maneuvers a bit easier. :-) (Okay, Preacher, you know I'm kidding!)
preacher1 2
3-2-1- break and you hope everybody did what they were supposed too. LOL
usad 3
Toby Sharp 1
wait...wait....wait.....So I'm going left and Steve if going right...right?
I hate to read all the negativity about certain aircraft manufacturers. Why are most of the US carriers flying Airbus a/c in their fleets if they are not safe? As for this video, it was so beautiful, I cried through most of it and I'm a 57-yr old married man and Sport Pilot. It was expertly filmed and everyone knew their assignments. Bravo Airbus for a spectacular achievement!
It is amassing to see the formation the brake from the arrow looks the best
Jose Suro 2
Beautiful!! Very graceful, like elephants dancing :).
I would hardly call it a "Mad Stunt"
The article is a good example of sensationalism at its worst!
Colin Seftel 2
Old news, was reported 2 months ago -
How much turbulence does the guy in the back of that diamond formation feel?
preacher1 2
Not as much as you would think. Most of it will be gone around or to the side and that close in you are really not bothered by it.
pat buckley 2
Great stuff..

Reminds me of the centerfold of a MAD magazine back in the 70's.

There was a picture of a bunch of 707's, 727's, 747's, and DC-9's doing all manner of intricate aerial maneuvers...

The caption at the bottom of the page said:

While waiting to land at O'hare and circling over Pontiac Illinois, the pilots got bored and decided to put on an impromptu air show.
ArmyAV8R 2 as the other side of the pillow!
RetAF 2
I suppose it could have been worse...seem to remember a factory fly by demo at the Paris Air Show back in the day that resulted in "fly by wire" keeping the engines at idle when the throttle levers were pushed up....and a fancy Airbus became a not so fancy chain saw!

Looks like Airbus grasped the concept of the three most important things in aviation are "altitude, altitude, altitude".

The video reminds me of the early days in the KC10 program when we launched an 8 ship formation so we could do heavyweight air refueling training!

Our squadron call sign was "Opec" (We had the gas!)

"Opec flight check"


Back when men were men and sheep were nervous!
I think you're talking about the Mulhouse airshow, not the one in Paris.
James Carroll 2
You've all overlooked the riskiest aspect of this project as a PR effort: no female pilots nor pilots of color.
preacher1 2
How do you know?
Navy65 2
"Mad Stunt" Who writes this drivel?
SmokedChops 2
who is this author?? "it still looks reckless." If this was penned by Steve Hinton or Patty Wagstaff, I would give it more weight. It's madness, I tell you, MADNESS those airplanes foolishly ...flying. Boy, is Airbus gonna be pissed when they find out what those pilots did.... <snark filter 'off'> (the aerial videography was stunning, btw)
N47 1
a cAn of eNergy dRink and a coPy of 'Sploid' plEasE, noW wHere's thaT typeWrIter...blaaah
preacher1 1
What is the problem? Pilot can't fly the plane, gonna hit another one? Bullcrap!!!!!!!!!
Kevin Welsh 1
Stunt? I don't think so
Rob Kemperman 1
Nice not everyday seen show!
Quick Lee 1
Great job Airbus. Boeing you are up!
Bill Swope 1
Nice... But no one will ever top Tex Johnson.
preacher1 1
That one stays in the history books. Nobody has the gonads or guts to try it, Boeing or Airbus. IDK if it's lack of nerve on the pilots or confidence(or lack of it) in the planes.
Dolf Brouwers 1
Professionals at work ! great stuff...
Not Mad at all. Just great. I have a photo of it as wallpaper on my laptop. How sad am I??
weyrholder100 1
The initial ides might have been thought up as a stunt, but it was carried out in a very professional manner from planning to execution. My only worry is that some other manufacturer would try to outdo this, but without the care or detailed planning that was evident in this.
preacher1 1
Well, as far as a major mfg., Boeing has already done it and that takes care of the other larger aircraft. Whether there is enough diversity in the other lines, idk. Hopefully they will plan as well.
Dana Reimer 1
Absolutely exhilerating!!!
Pete Schecter 1
GREAT aerial photo work, nice!
fantastic!!!!! that´s all.
Dave H 1
Great, awesome and some real entertainment for people stuck on planet Earth!!
Chris B 1
It certainly one ups Boeing. I give someone at Airbus credit for realizing this was possible. And tons more credit to his or her boss for having the balls to make this happen.
preacher1 2
Love 'em or hate 'em; it just shows that Airbus has come of age and that there is another kid on the block to contend with. Apparently Boeing got lax for a few years and allowed them to catch up. I personally think everybody needs a little competition to keep them sharp.
mrippe 1
what took them so long. we did this kind of stuff on armed forces day in 1963, 1964 and 1965, at mcguire afb with boeing c-135b's. (1962 built aircraft)
if airbus wants to play, show us their version of the barrel roll that the original boeing 707 367-80 did in 1955.
Ken Tipton 1
This would make AIRBUS number ONE staying on Top and Proud.
joel wiley 1
That demonstration should put them in the running for a Best Choreogragphy award.
Robert Warren 1
What? No loop?!? =^}
neil olstad 1
I bet we will see a similar performance at an air show in the near future. Somebody will find e.g. 5 old 707's and put on a show complete with coloured smoke and barrel rolls etc
preacher1 1
Reckon a 787 can do it?
Betty O 1
I LOVED the laptops running Windows XP! And we always think Microsoft doesn't work!!!
Russell Hayes 1
Magnificent in execution for my money!
wgfcrafty 1
If my pilot couldn't pull that off I don't want him in the cockpit. **BANK RIGHT, NOT TOO FAST**

WOW! ;-)
Bruce Boaze 0
If I were an Airbus stockholder, I would wonder who's paying for the fuel and pilot time!
preacher1 2
wgfcrafty 1
Why? I saw this and therefore Airbus got exposure.

Now I'm not buying one any time soon (still saving up for a 737, heh), nor would it make me want to fly on an Airbus any more then I already want to fly to Australia direct on an A80.

Slow news day - Does the US make news every time it runs more than one stealth bomber?
djnorm 1
The marketing department, I'm sure...
Thomas OHair 0
Why do this? Anyone in the market to purchase an airliner already knows the airplanes fly well. Why spend the time on fuel and planning? Does anyone remember the XB-70 promotional catastrophe? Anytime aircraft fly close to each other there is increased risk of hitting one another. It is pretty, but when humans are involved things can and do go wrong.
Mark Richards 0
All men. Boys and their expensive toys :)


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