Photo Flights and Formation Flying in Business Jets

Ready for a Photo Flight? Flight suit, negative. Helmet, nope. High level of Skill, yep! Photo flights and formation flying in business jets will require a level of skill not found in most business pilots.

During my pilot career with the United States Air Force which included a two year tour with Photo Flights and Formation Flying in Business Jetsthe Thunderbirds F-16 demonstration team, I had many opportunities to enjoy jet formation flying. After transitioning to civilian business jet flying, the flight suit and helmet were put in the closet. When I recently received a call from one of our clients who asked if we’d fly his Phenom 300 over Monument Valley, UT while renowned photographer Jessica Ambats flew in a photo ship and captured both still and video of the flight, I was delighted to do so.

Photo flights represent the biggest formation flying risk. By definition, a photo flight is a formation flight, but many pilots don’t even consider this fact. As a result, pilots with zero formation experience will still fly a photo mission. This leads to an unorganized process where briefs are often poor and not followed. In the air, pilots will attempt things beyond their skill level, because of photographer requests or because the camera pointed at them minimizes their situational awareness.

Other complications include dissimilar aircraft with very different flight characteristics and a constantly changing formation, with aircraft moving in and out of formation to be on- or off-stage. Don’t be tempted by the exciting air-to-air photos and try it yourself.

Photo Flights and Formation Flying in Business JetsClose formation is something that must be thoughtfully and thoroughly planned and briefed to a level of detail that goes well beyond the normal trip. Having flown hundreds of flights in close formation with as many as seven other aircraft, this trip was second nature, a pleasure to fly and our client was happy as well. Give me a call if this is something you’re thinking about. I can recommend photographers who will not only capture your aircraft and the setting you desire but will only employ experienced formation pilots to fly the photo ship.

If you are in need of a photo flight requiring a high level formation flying in a business jet contact me at (904) 631-0153 Dave Coffman


Dave began his flying career at 16 and earned his Private Pilot’s license shortly after his 17th birthday. He graduated with Honors from Florida Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Air Commerce Flight Technology and later completed his Masters Degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle University. After graduation he joined the Air Force through Officers Training School and later completed pilot training at Reese AFB, TX. He was selected to the fly the F-16 at Torrejon Air Base, Spain with the 614 Tactical Fighter Squadron “Lucky Devils”. Dave served 23 years in the active Air Force and Air Force Reserve retiring as a Lt Colonel. His assignments included operational F-16 units in Europe and the United States as well as an assignment as a T-37 Instructor Pilot at Columbus AFB, MS where he served as the Assistant Chief of the 14 Flying Training Wing’s Standardization and Evaluation Division. He commanded the 39th Flying Training Squadron, Moody AFB, GA, the Air Force Reserve’s first associate Joint Primary Aircraft Training System unit employing both the T-6 and the AT-38 jet trainer as well as a tour flying the lead solo #5 F-16 aircraft with the Air Force Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds” where he flew over 150 air shows in all 50 states as well as in Europe and South America before millions of spectators including the President of the United States, Secretary of State and numerous heads of state. His awards and achievements include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and Top Graduate of his Pilot Instructor Training class. Additionally, he was the awarded the Air Force “Pilot of Distinction Award” for his recovery of an F-16 during an air show after a catastrophic afterburner explosion. He is an ATP rated pilot as well as a CFII/MEI. He has over 5,000 hours of flight time and over 1,200 hours instructing in jets, with type ratings in the Embraer Phenom 100 and 300 as well as the Citation Mustang (CE-510S). Please feel free to contact Dave at 904-631-0153, or via email

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