Two aircraft simultaneously taking off in formation present many practical advantages in tactical
aviation. If a flight must be established on course quickly or if poor weather conditions prevail, a section
takeoff eliminates the necessity for a rendezvous. If a hostile encounter is expected, a section takeoff
can immediately establish mutual support.
Section takeoffs are not performed when 1) the maximum crosswind component, temperature, takeoff roll,
or difference in gross weight exceeds SOP/NATOPS criteria for respective dual or solo flights or 2) the
aircraft have different external configurations, such as one aircraft with ordnance and one without. Section
takeoff is allowed, however, if the different external configuration consists of one aircraft with unloaded
pylons and the other without pylons.
Section takeoff procedures start with both aircraft on the runway and on bearing. After runup checks, the
lead reduces power 2 percent from MRT to allow the wingman excess power, receives thumbs-up when
the wingman is ready, raises his forearm vertically on the wingman's side, hesitates a moment, and
drops his arm smartly. As the lead's arm drops below the canopy rail, the flight simultaneously releases
Early detection and correction for changes in relative motion are the keys to performing a section takeoff.
The wingman maintains position down the runway by adjusting power to control bearing and rudder to
maintain wingtip separation. If he goes acute immediately after beginning the takeoff roll, he may lightly
tap the brakes. To maintain directional control, the wingman applies rudder.
As rotation speed is approached, the lead smoothly rotates. The wingman then matches the lead's
rotation rate and attitude. After both aircraft are safely airborne, the wingman moves into parade position.
When the lead is safely airborne and at 140 KIAS, he gives the gear/flap/slat signal by distinctly nodding
his head forward and then sharply back. When the lead's head reaches the headrest, both pilots raise the
gear and flaps/slats. The flight lead will ensure both aircraft gear are up and locked and the flaps/slats are
up before exceeding 200 KIAS.
CAUTION: The gear uplock mechanism can be overridden with 20-50 Ibs of force applied to the
Early lift-off by the wingman creates a less than ideal situation due to: 1) low altitude, 2) step up on the
lead, and 3) difficulty in keeping sight. Avoid abrupt corrections. You should stabilize bearing, maintain
separation, and relax back stick pressure to reduce the rate of climb. Allow the lead to climb above you, at
which time you join in parade position. Do not create a rate of descent.