The Missing Man Formation
Not to get all morbid here, and not that I’m thinking more about these things as I get older, but I’d like to request a certain kind of send-off when they finally plant me on the wrong side of the grass. The best kind of send-off actually. I want four F-15s to execute a missing man formation over my burial.
The “missing man” is a stirring aerial salute often performed at the funerals of noted dignitaries, especially, but not exclusively, pilots and other military men. The aircraft fly over in the classic “finger four” combat formation, so called because the fighters occupy positions relative to each other as if perched at the fingertips of an outstretched hand, and then at the crucial moment, right overhead, the number three plane executes a rapid climb and roars toward the heavens, leaving a gap in the formation that symbolizes the departed soul of the poor schmuck getting turfed below.
It works best with F-15s, or perhaps F-22s, because these aircraft have thrust:weight ratios well in excess of unity, and can stand on their tails and scream heavenwards on vertical, accelerating trajectories. F-15s would be a sentimental favourite, if I get my choice. If they’re no longer in service when the time comes, then fine, OK, F-22s.
I’ll admit this will be tricky to arrange. It will require the USAF to dedicate expensive resources to the obscure burial of a complete nobody in a foreign country, and no doubt will involve coordination between militaries under the auspices of NORAD, but it’s what I want. My wife has promised she’ll arrange it for me.
I mean, just have a look – wouldn’t you like one too?
Actually, it would be really great if I could have one just like the formation they mustered up for Gerry Ford in Grand Rapids, after he left us. He got twenty-one F-15s, with the missing man peeling off the last group:
Gerry Ford was a good guy and everything, but hey, so am I. Surely I rate the better part of a squadron of supersonic air superiority fighters at my grand farewell?
Maybe then somebody will come.