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Thread: What is a "Vic"?

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    Default What is a "Vic"?

    Board members may have noticed a caption in the latest "Aeroplane" magazine (August) on page 55, with a Spitfire on ground, and three more approaching above, in line astern (and probably stepped down). The caption writer has stated that the three above are a "Vic" inn "loose line astern", which certainly seems incorrect to me. So far as I can recall, a "Vic" is a small group of three aircraft in "arrowhead" formation, and would (in a Fighter squadron at least) be described as a Section, although later in WW2 a Section in such squadrons was increased to four aircraft and/or pilots. So the three Spitfires in the photograph may have been a "vic" a few minutes before this exposure was made, but cannot now be so described. Strangely the term "Vic" seems to be a specialised slang term, and I cannot find any reference to it in my (admittedly rather small) Pocket Oxford dictionary. Did it start out as an American term and migrate to the RAF during WW2, or was it British in origin? I have a very early version (actually a New Zealand reprint) of the RAF "Flying Training Manual - Part 1 - Landplanes" (AP.129) which must date from about 1938 or 39, the latest aircraft subjects in the illustrations including Miles Magisters, Fairey Battles, Hawker Harts and the like (and aero engines include Pegasus, Merlin, Tiger, Perseus, and Dagger). The great thing about this book is that it describes not only quite a lot of technical details on airframes and engines, theory of flight and control, construction, operation, etc, but also a lot about procedures of night (and instrument) flying, high altitude, long range, hot and cold environments, but also many of the normal procedures of this period, including standard night flying rules and equipment, oxygen equipment and flying clothing, aerobatics, and a huge section on formation flying and procedures. One thing is very clear, the RAF took a huge (almost unhealthy) interest in formation flying. In this manual a total of 65 pages (Appendix IV) are devoted to explaining "Air Drill", which is basically formation flying. This is in addition to a whole chapter on the general subject (Chapter V) which occupies another 16 pages and includes illustrations of all the standard hand signals (this book dates from the time when practically all front-line RAF operational aircraft were open-cockpit biplanes like the Hawker Hind and Fury), and R/T was only gradually replacing hand signals. Regardless, the basic minimum unit of formation at this time was the famous arrowhead formation, although it was clearly not then referred to as a "Vic", but a sub-formation known as a "Flight formation" or "V formation", of three aircraft in aforementioned arrowhead formation, with leader as No.1, man on his right No.2, and on leader's left, No.3. Most larger formations were built out of such "sub-formations", and were called "Squadron formations" (made up of three "V" formations, arranged in a "V" themselves, total of nine a/c), and "Wing formations" (27 aircraft in nine "V formations" arranged in a large "V" formation). Thus all these formations were symmetrical, not lopsided in relation to the leader. However I have just located a reference to "Vic" in one of the captions, which shows two aircraft in formation, on same "plane", one alongside but to the rear of the leader, and this is referred to as "Vic, or echelon formation". However I think this is misleading as the subject of the sketch is intervals between single aircraft (of a formation) and if read in this context, then "Vic" can be construed as having the same meaning as "V" formation.
    Has any members any comments on the forgoing? I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.
    David D

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    Hi David;

    2 comments:

    From memory, "Vic" was old phonetic code for the letter "V", and would have originated in the RAF, pre Second World War. This is the same code that gave us "ack" for "A".

    Formation flying was, and still is, claimed to be an excellent form of manual skills training for a beginning pilot. I did it exactly twice, in a Cessna 172 . Once was practice with another 172, and the second time was photo chase on a Trident Trigull, to photograph wool tufts (another story). The landings that I made at the end of each session stick in my memory as far and away the smoothest I ever made (although that doesn't really mean much).

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    David,
    Bill Walker is quite right. The term "Vic" was used (and still is) to describe a formation of aircraft flying in the shape of the letter V. Bill's reference to "Ack" for the letter A is well illustrated by the term "ack-ack" for AA or anti-aircraft as in ack-ack gun. "Vic" may well have originally been a shortened version of Victor, the phonetic code for V.
    Formation flying, far from being an "almost unhealthy" practice was and is, seen as a means of teaching pilots good and precise control of their machine and flight discipline. Further, flying in formation is a very good way to get the maximum number of aircraft to a given point in the shortest possible time. The use of rigid formations in the combat area soon proved to be totally unworkable as well as downright dangerous and the pre-war Fighter Command Attacks were dispensed with very early on when the pilots quickly learned that it was a case of "every man for himself" once battle was joined. "Sailor" Malan, one of the great fighter leaders of the Second World War, was always drumming it into his pilots not to fly straight and level for more than a few seconds in the combat area.
    So far as the bombers were concerned, it was obviously impossible to fly in formation in the dark but, on daylight raids flying in formation meant a greater concentration of bombs on target plus the benefit of mutual protection from fighter attack.
    Best Regards,
    Bill.

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    Hi David
    If we think about it anyone with the name Victor is commonly referred to as Vic and the same happened when the name was used in the phonetic alphabet although it is used in full over the R/T, but when it becomes a codeword for something else it gets shortened. Thus your AP129 reference to a V formation was a candidate for the use of Vic in speech and reported speech. The Aeroplane has got it wrong, but I suspect it was a young Caption writer trying to show that he/she "knew!!".Even the rather breathless wartime prose could well have made the same error,if what you saw is a quote from that time. BTW Victor is still part of the phonetic alphabet in modern use although Bill's Ack has long been replaced by the more international Alpha
    Regards
    Dick

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    Bill's right about Vic being the phonetic for V. It dated back to WW1 and supposedly changed to Victor in 1942, surviving into the current phonetic alphabet.

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