A missing man formation is executed by the fighter pilots of a country’s Air Force. It is an aerial manoeuvre that honours a colleague who has died or is missing in action. The manoeuvre is also carried out for astronauts and Heads of State.

The practice originated in World War I. Britain’s Royal Air Force pilots returning from battle would fly in strict formation to alert the ground crew of their arrival. The ground crew recognised the formations and would note the missing aircraft. This warned them of the number of pilots who had been brought down.

The first pilot to be honoured with an official missing man formation was Baron von Richthofen, a German flying ace known as the Red Baron. Pilots put on a spontaneous flyby with a missing aircraft. By 1938, the U.S. and other countries had adopted the practice, and it became common at the funerals of high-ranking military or government officers and at commemorations of war events.

A missing man formation can either lack one plane or have a pilot pull away from it when flying over the site of the funeral or memorial.

Picture Credit : Google 

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