Echelon, You Hockey Puck!

This is an “Echelon” formation:


T-38A Echelon


It is used primarily at low level, to maneuver around the traffic pattern and so forth.  It is characterized with all the aircraft in the formation being on the same side as opposed to the ‘Fingertip’ formation where the Nr. 2 aircraft is on one side of the leader, and Nrs. 3 and 4 are on the opposite side.


Randolph AFB, TX T-38s in ‘Fingertip’ formation.

Before entering the traffic pattern, the Leader will command the formation from Fingertip to Echelon to be in a position to pitch out and land…

In the top picture above the formation is in the area, practicing Echelon.  To transition from a straight and level Echelon formation to a turning formation, the Leader will give the Nr. 2 guy a hand signal before rolling into the turn.

We didn’t have a formation for a “Fingertip” formation turn while in Echelon so it was all fairly simple – or so you would think.

One day, out in the area, I led a formation into an Echelon turn.  I gave a hand signal then rolled my aircraft.  Nr. 2, a solo with his head up his ass, rolled up on my right wing – in Fingertip.  Nr. 3, 1Lt. Howard Nicholas, was now in a quandary!  (Howard was the IP).  He wasn’t going to roll up on Nr. 2’s right wing as it was not a ‘legal’ formation.  So he just kind of held back, in Echelon, giving Nr. 2 plenty of space to maneuver, keyed the mic and offered the following words of thoughtful encouragement:  “Echelon, you hockey puck!”

And that was Howard being pissed!

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