Flying high in Formation Clinic over the weekend

If you were curious this weekend about all the activity at Madera Municipal Airport, wonder no more. Flyers from throughout the West were participating in a West Coast Formation Clinic to qualify themselves to fly in formations during air shows or other aviation demonstrations.

You might ask why these pilots brought their planes all the way to Madera from as far away as Seattle. The answer is that Madera is becoming well known among flying enthusiasts as a great place to hold aviation events.

The planes that were here this weekend, known as Vans RV-7s, are usually built by their owners from kits manufactured in Aurora, Oregon.

Why do people want to build their own planes? First, it’s fun. It presents a challenge to the pilot and those who help him or her put the plane together. Second, it can be cheaper than buying an airplane off the showroom floor.

One reason flyers like Madera as an event destination is that it isn’t too crowded. You can get a fair number of planes together, tether them, then spend as much time looking them over as you need. Here is some information from the clinic’s Internet site:

“Formation flying is an absolute blast. The goal may be to perform at an air show — or merely to get a group of two or more airplanes safely from point A to point B. When done properly and done well, it can be incredibly satisfying, and it looks great from the ground, too. That said, flying in formation is serious business! It’s not the type of thing you want to just go up and try with your buddies.

“The West Coast Formation Clinic is a weekend-long immersion into the study of safe formation flying in Vans RV aircraft. Very straightforward and safe techniques for civilian formation activities have evolved over the years, stemming primarily from military flight ops.”

I tell you all this because we are always looking for ways to promote business in Madera, and air events are high up, so to speak, on the list.

When pilots bring their planes to town, they spend money on food, and in hotels. They buy aviation fuel. They spend money on parts and other mechanical needs.

Madera has hosted air shows which have drawn huge crowds, and that will happen again.

It might not be a bad idea for someone in the city or the Chamber of Commerce to form an aviation promotion committee so we can see more events like the West Coast Formation Clinic come to town.