Thursday 24th May 2018
Approval has been given for the Red Arrows to officially begin their 2018 season – displaying to millions during a milestone year of commemoration and celebration.
The team’s 54th season will help mark the Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary.
Following months of training and perfecting dynamic new manoeuvres, the Red Arrows were awarded Public Display Authority (PDA) earlier today – the formal consent needed to perform for people at home and overseas.
Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows are expected to complete more than 60 shows across the United Kingdom and beyond during the 2018 campaign.
The latest season is the first time the nine-aircraft formation has been led by Squadron Leader Martin Pert, who flies as Red 1.
“As the Royal Air Force enters its centenary year of 2018, the Red Arrows will spearhead celebrations across the UK and further afield.
“Particular highlights this year will of course be those major airshows and events celebrating RAF100 – such as the Royal International Air Tattoo – together with travelling the length and breadth of the country commemorating all of the achievements of the RAF, under our inimitable ensign of red, white and blue smoke trails.”
Red 1 is always a pilot who has completed a previous tour with the team and returns, later in their career, as Team Leader. The individual is responsible for all aspects of the display, from running the training programme to designing the new aerobatic show for 2018.
Squadron Leader Pert, who flew the RAF’s frontline Typhoon jet before coming back to the Red Arrows as Team Leader, said:
“The new display incorporates favourite manoeuvres, such as Tornado and Phoenix, while the addition of Centenary Split gives extra dynamism and an arena-filling spectacle – during which seven aircraft pull up at 4g and 420mph, then climb over a mile high before simultaneously splitting in a fan-like break.”
A big focus for this year will be on a role that is at the heart of the Red Arrows – to inspire people of all backgrounds and ages through a display of speed, agility and teamwork.
Just like those personnel at other Royal Air Force units, the 120 people who make up the entire Red Arrows team are highly-skilled individuals who are all motivated in the pursuit of excellence.
Squadron Leader Pert said:
“Despite the obvious setbacks that befell the team in March, I’d like to give thanks to the entire cadre of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team for their unstinting stoicism, grit and sheer determination that’s got us to the remarkable point at which we are able to PDA on our original timeline.
“The UK military prides itself on its camaraderie and teamwork that often produces results above and beyond the sum of its parts but it’s been particularly inspiring to observe how my whole team have rallied around one core aim – that of bringing joy through our displays, to people everywhere.
“More than anything, the teamwork and diligence observed over the previous six months to get us to this point is because I know how proud every member of my team is to inspire future generations through their unrelenting quest for professional excellence, in everything that they do.”
Wing Commander Andrew Keith, Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said the season ahead promised chance for people across the UK to join with the Red Arrows in marking RAF100.
“It is a privilege to be part of a team that is the public face of the RAF and to symbolise the dedication, teamwork, attention-to-detail and drive to excel that underpins the ethos of our Armed Forces.
“As well as completing our displays and flypasts, many members of the Red Arrows team will be on the ground at airshows and events to meet people and also highlight key themes for us, such as promoting the importance of the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.”
Training for the new season began in autumn last year, at the Red Arrows’ home base of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. Final preparations then took place over the last five weeks at the Hellenic Air Force base of Tanagra, Greece, during a deployment known as Exercise Springhawk.
The overseas element allows the Red Arrows to take advantage of more settled weather and fly up to 15 displays a week to perfect and polish the show.
Following the display approval, the pilots were allowed to change from their green coveralls, used during training, into their famous red flying suits, which are worn during the season.
All Red Arrows pilots are from frontline squadrons and, before joining the team, operated jets such as the Tornado, Typhoon or Harrier – helping the Royal Air Force to project influence for the UK and secure the skies 365 days a year.
A new pilot joining the Red Arrows for the 2018 season is Red 2, Flight Lieutenant Jon Bond.
“Getting the opportunity to wear the famous red flying suit for the first time is a huge honour and responsibility, as you are following those skilled pilots of previous Red Arrows teams and also representing the UK.
“There’s also a wonderful sense of achievement shared by the entire team – both pilots and ground crew – who, after the months of winter training, have seen the display come together.”
There is a huge team effort needed to allow the Red Arrows to perform for the public, from flight operations personnel and engineering technicians to administrators and suppliers.
The support staff, who number more than 100, also changed their coveralls following PDA, into their well-known royal blue flying suits. They are known as ‘the Blues’.
Senior Engineering Officer, Squadron Leader Richard Bland, said:
“The opportunity that Exercise Springhawk affords is time and space to galvanise as a team.
“However, it’s not just about the performance overseas – we must give credit to those colleagues and families who have remained at home in the UK and provided such strong support and encouragement throughout.”
Beginning with small groups of three or four aircraft, training develops over several months for the Red Arrows before a display season begins.
Pilots fly three times a day, five days a week – until the team’s full nine-ship formation comes together around February or March.
Each sortie follows the same two-hour cycle of pre-flight briefing, the flight itself and a thorough, analytical debrief. The aim is constant improvement.
PDA follows a detailed assessment by a senior Royal Air Force officer.
The Royal Air Force’s Air Officer Commanding, 22 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Warren James, observed all aspects of the team, on the ground and in the air.
This is to ensure the team satisfies the highest safety standards and is performing a display that is a credit to both the Service and UK.
The Red Arrows will return to the UK on Saturday, with the 2018 team’s first UK public show appearance being a display at Torbay on June 2.
Top image: SAC(T) Dean Sharp and Cpl Lydia Ford filling the smoke pods for the dye and smoke trails that we see from the Red Arrows, photographed at Tanagra Airbase on the 16th May 2018, in preperation for PDA where we are granted the Public Display Authority for the 2018 display season.