Could a smaller plane fly in a V formation behind a much larger plane to reduce fuel consumption significantly more than a plane its own size? At what point does flying in a larger planes wake become to turbulent or increased fuel efficiency stops?

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Related: How do planes benefit from flying in formation?

  • $\begingroup$ Dup of this post i think aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/16821/… $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 30, 2019 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnK Not a duplicate but it is highly related and added it to the body thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Jul 30, 2019 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ The image you posted is of a fighter jet lining up behind a tanker aircraft for refueling. The fighter would want to AVOID the wake turbulence, since it is extremely dangerous to fly through. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2019 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


No, airplane wakes do not work like this. The streamlined body has very little wake, it is not like a cube shaped truck. The main wake on an airplane is found at the wingtips in the form of a strong vortex like horizontal tornado, aided somewhat by the down wash of the mid wingspan.

The tip vortex from a large plane will make a small plane spin like a windmill. A german bombardier challanger(mid size business jet) flew under an A380 at cruise altitude a few years ago and was turned over so hard the plane had to be sold for scrap, broke a one passanger's ribs, recorded near 4G force, lost 8000 ft of altitude before recovering control.

  • $\begingroup$ And then there are many cases where pilots weren't so lucky as to be able to regain control of the airplane before impact with the ground. XC-VMC comes to mind as a high-profile example. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 26, 2019 at 6:20

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