I am not quite sure if there's any word for this very precise idea, but I would like to know how I can succinctly express it. So I am looking for a verb or a noun that would allow me to express the idea of a plane or many planes synchronizing its or their flight to another reference plane either in the middle of the group or not, or next if it's a single plane or not, so that they remain on it's side and never overtake the reference plane or fall behind, where we would never have a V shape formation, a \ formation and whatnot, just a _ formation so to speak.

For example:

The planes flew side by side next to Jimmy's plane so as to form a straight line.

  • Consider formation flight. Mar 17, 2019 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


When plane B flys keeping pace with plane A, it is often said to fly "on A's wing" and if this is habitual, the pilot of B may be said to be the "wingman" of the pilot of A. This implies that B is beside, and perhaps slightly behind A. It is originally a military formation, and the terms is still primarily used in that context, or in metaphoric extensions of it.

If a set of three or more plains fly in a diagonal line, so that the second is beside and behind the first, and th third further beside and behind the second, they may be said to fly "in echelon". This is again originally and primarily a military term. But then formation flying is primarily a military practice.

"On the wing of" is both more specific and less formal than "in formation".

Metaphorically when two friends go out together, particularly two young men, one may be said to be the other's "wingman". This implies that the wingman is there largely to assist the first person, perhaps in finding a date.

  • Why the downvote?. I don't think anything in this answer is inaccurate.Downvioting with no indication of the reason doesn't help anyone. Mar 17, 2019 at 19:57

That would be "flying in formation". The pattern of two flying side by side is the formation.

Alternatively, if you are just maintaining position relative to it without its cooperation, it would be keeping pace with the other plane.

  • Shouldn't I have to say which formation? There are multiple formations after all.
    – Sayaman
    Mar 17, 2019 at 15:57
  • 3
    No, "in formation" just means in some sort of formation, without being specific.
    – SamBC
    Mar 17, 2019 at 16:27

If you are looking for a phrase which specifically refers to planes flying exactly side by side, I recall from reading books about the Second World War RAF* that it is called 'line abreast'.

It is in origin a nautical term for ships in the same formation. Whether it is still used by modern pilots, I have no idea. It does at least seem like a phrase the reader would have a decent chance of working out for themselves, if they had never seen it before.

*Douglas Bader FTW

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