Twelve pilots selected from the Israel Ultralight Association flew in perfect arrow formation in six aircraft over the Dead Sea at an altitude of 422 meters below sea level, breaking the previous record of 355 feet.
(Israel Ministry of Tourism)
Twelve pilots flying six aircraft have been officially awarded a Guinness World Record for formation flying at the lowest altitude in the lowest place on earth, flying in an arrowhead formation over the Dead Sea, 422 meters below sea level.
This record breaking initiative was lead by Lt. Col. Dan Shion, a pilot and former fighter squadron commander of the air force. Following his army service he continued to fly as a hobby in a variety of ultralight aircraft. Shion, an old fashioned Zionist, decided to take up the challenge of entering the Guinness World Record with the flight recorded in Israel.
In order to achieve a Guinness World Record, a formation flight lasting more than one minute must be achieved at more than 355 feet below sea level. Formation flying is when multiple planes are arranged geometrically flying close to each other in one route destination and accurately perform all the functions. It requires a high skill level of the pilots as even the smallest path deviation can result in an accident.
In addition to the risks incurred in formation flying at regular altitudes, there were also risks in his choice of destination, over the Dead Sea. Flight over water often creates distortions in vision and perception about height and distance from the sea which again could lead to a disastrous mistake.
In order to accomplish this complicated flight a group of pilots were selected from the Israel Ultralight Association, and all barring one pilot were senior air force pilots and three of them served as combat wing commanders in the air force.
On November 22, 2013 at 7:30 a formation of six planes took off from their home landing strip in Rishon Le Zion accompanied by two additional planes carrying Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel Omar Talmon and certified as a judge on behalf of Guinness and two film crews documenting the flight as required by Guinness in the other plane. The aircraft in the formation were fitted with advanced GPS navigation equipment that measured direction and height of the flight.
At 8:45 the formation made the first sortie above the Dead Sea at an altitude of 422 meters below sea level lasting for one minute in an attempt to break the record. However, as one of the planes strayed from the formation, the judge on behalf of Guinness disqualified the sortie.
The formation returned for another attempt along the same flight path over the Dead Sea, and this time the formation performed a perfect arrow and for a full minute the planes flew at 160 km/hr over the Dead Sea at a height of 422 meters below sea level achieving a Guinness world record. At the end of the flight the six pilots landed along with the accompanying planes at the foot of Masada and after they received confirmation by the judge that the record had been obtained – they opened a bottle of champagne marking this achievement.