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RAF Display Team “The Red Arrows”; RAF Fairford July 13 & 14, 2014

The BAE Systems Hawk, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

One of the most famous display teams in the world is the RAF Display Team the Red Arrows. The team flies with nine Hawks and is known for its tight formation flights. Every year the team is a familiar sight at various airshows Europe and the rest of the world. The Red Arrows apply a strict selection procedure within the RAF.

The Red Arrows were in the United Kingdom not the first display team which was formed. From 1920 there were several teams which have been active in the UK. However the development of display teams really got underway in the UK after the Second World War. In 1947, the first team with jet aircraft in the form of de Havilland Vampires was formed at RAF Odiham. The no 54 Squadron was the first demo team with jets which used smoke during the demos. The Vampires were soon exchanged for the Gloster Meteor and the demos were flown from that moment by the no 66 Squadron. In 1955, the demos were again flown by the no 54 Squadron which was equipped with the Hawker Hunter. The first official RAF display team was flown in 1956 by the no 11 Squadron. The aircraft had for the first time a color scheme and the unit was designated as "The Black Arrows". This team would fly demonstrations with five Hunters flying in a tight formation. The Black Arrows remained the primary team in the UK until 1961 when the team was replaced by the Blue Diamonds of the no 92 Squadron with over 16 blue Hunters. In 1964, a team was formed which also flew with five Gnats. This team became known as the RAF Yellow Jackets and was flown by the no 4 Flying Training School. Eventually, all the teams were merged in 1964 because there were simply too many teams emerged in the United Kingdom. The Gnats of the Yellow Jacket were painted red for safety reasons. The name yellow of the Yellow Jackets was changed to red due to the new color and the name Jack was replaced by Arrows of the Black Arrows. In this way, the name Red Arrows was born.

The new Red Arrows display team officially began under the name Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) and was based at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. The unit at RAF Fairford was a satellite unit of the Central Flying School (CFS). The first team consisted of seven display pilots and flew the Folland Gnat T1. The first demo of the Red Arrows was flown on May 6, 1965 during the press day at Little Rissington. During

the demonstration in France three days later, the team was described by a French journalist as "Les Rouges Fleches" which means in French Red Arrows. At the end of their first season, the Red Arrows had flown demos in 65 different countries. The Red Arrows moved in 1966 to RAF Kemble. In 1968, the team was expanded from seven to nine aircraft. From that moment the famous Diamond Nine formation was flown by the Red Arrows. The Folland Gnat was in the winter of 1979 after 1292 displays replaced by the BAE Systems Hawk at the Red Arrows. RAF Scampton was from 1983, the main base of the British CFS. As a result, the Red Arrows moved in that year to this base in England. RAF Scampton was closed in 1995 by cutbacks. The Red Arrows moved to RAF Cranwell as a result. Since December 21, 2000, the Red Arrows would reuse RAF Scampton as their home base.

Since 1966, nine display pilots are per year active at the Red Arrows. The pilots must all have had an operational tour. Besides this, they should at least experienced a fighter like the Harrier, Tornado and Typhoon and they need to have more than 1500 flight hours or more on these types to fly with the Red Arrows. Also the pilots who apply for the team need to be the best of the class in their operational unit before they can enter the Red Arrows. Even under these conditions, there are every year more than ten applicants for every place in the formation. The pilots who are admitted will serve three years with the Red Arrows before returning to their operational unit. The formation consists every year of three new members, three second year members and three final year members. The leader is also referred to as the Boss. He will fly another three years in the formation. The Boss has in the formation the designation Red One and comes usually from the Synchro Pair. During the second half of the demonstration, the formation is broken down into two parts. The Reds 1 until 5 form the Enid formation which is named after Enid Blyton who was a famous author of books. Reds 6 until 9 flying in the Gypo formation. Gypo was the nickname of the pilots of the Red Arrows in the 60s. The Enid formation will continue to fly various formations while Gypo formation will fly more dynamic maneuvers. Red 6 (Synchro Leader) and Red 7 (Synchro 2) form the Synchro Pair and will fly sometimes straight towards each other. At the end of each season, there will be a new Red 7 selected from the new pilots and the current Red 7 will be the new Red 6.

The Red Arrows have no spare pilots in their team, because that person has too less operational training which is needed to meet the requirements. Also, it is impossible to train pilots for all positions in the formation of nine aircraft. When a team member is not able to fly at a demonstration, the formation will consist of only eight planes. The full demonstration will be canceled when the leader Red 1 is unable to fly, because his role in the formation is too important. Every pilot will fly during the entire season at the same position in the formation. The pilots of the Red Arrows fly from October until April training flights for the new season which starts after this period. During training flights the pilots wear the standard green overalls of the RAF. They may wear the famous red racing overalls only after they have received their Public Display Authority (PDA) after winter training. The newest members of the team will fly during their first season close to the leader of the formation. Increases in proportion as their experience, they will end up further behind in the formation in the seasons that follow. Pilots who start on the left side of the formation will fly in their three year career always on this side of the formation. The only exceptions to this rule are the pilots of the Synchro Pair. Red 10 is the tenth plane and is flown by the Team Supervisor. The pilot of the Hawk is also a fully qualified Hawk pilot. The Hawk is the backup plane when the Red Arrows go on tour. The Red Arrows display team remains one of the best teams in the world.

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