Red Arrows start 60th display season with Midlands Air Festival on May 31 - The Redditch Standard

Red Arrows start 60th display season with Midlands Air Festival on May 31

Redditch Editorial 17th May, 2024   0

A MILESTONE 60th display season has officially begun for the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – featuring the return of the Red Arrows’ trademark diamond nine formation.

The new team concluded a six-month training period on Thursday (16th May), culminating with a final assessment known as Public Display Authority (PDA).

The Midlands Air Festival at Ragley Hall in Alcester, Warwickshire on May 31 – June 2, will be the first domestic show of the 60th campaign.

Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows showcase the excellence of the RAF and represent the United Kingdom both at home and overseas.

The team consists of pilots and more than 100 support personnel and technicians. Each of the pilots has previous fast-jet, operational experience flying the Tornado, Typhoon or Harrier, enabling the RAF to secure the skies and protect the nation and its interests, 365-days a year.

One of the world’s premier aerobatic teams, the Red Arrows had completed nearly 5,000 displays, in 57 countries, by the beginning of 2024 and fly the BAE Systems Hawk T1 fast-jet.

AOC 1Gp Air Vice Marshal Mark Flewin awards Public Display Authority to RAFAT for the the 2024, diamond season. Photographer: Cpl Phil Dye – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

With preparations for the new season complete, the Red Arrows are now starting the 2024 campaign, which will include dozens of shows across the United Kingdom, mainland Europe and Canada.

Millions of people at airshows and events will see a refreshed aerobatic routine packed with big new shapes, dynamic manoeuvres not performed for more than a decade and some special additions to mark the 60th.

In his first year leading the team, flying as Red 1, is Squadron Leader Jon Bond. The former frontline RAF Typhoon pilot said:

“It was incredibly exciting to design the new show back in the autumn of last year.

“While I had to be mindful that we hadn’t displayed as a nine-aircraft formation since 2021, I really wanted to make the display as dynamic, precise and fast-paced as possible – this is exactly what you would expect of the Red Arrows.

“In celebration of our heritage, we have incorporated manoeuvres that haven’t been seen for many years, such as the 5/4 Split, while also ensuring that staple crowd-favourites also remain – including Tornado, where two jets roll around the outside of the other seven.

“The intention is for the crowd to always have aircraft in front of them to watch at every moment of the display. This aim, to inspire and entertain through precision and teamwork, has been the very DNA of a Red Arrows show since that first display season of 1965.

“I’m thrilled to have the chance to continue that legacy in our diamond year and by flying as the Diamond Nine, which I know generations of aviation fans and families have enjoyed.”

Preparations for the new 60th season began at the team’s home of RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, last year. Using a building block approach – with formations growing in size and complexity – this training continued at the base until April.

Flying then transferred overseas, to practice locations in Croatia and most recently Greece, in an exercise known as Springhawk. Making full use of more settled weather conditions, the team has flown up to 15 times a week, perfecting and polishing the new display.

The variety of sites also allows the team to simulate what they will find at show venues during the season, as well as encountering a range of atmospheric and other conditions.

At Hellenic Air Force base Tanagra, the PDA process was overseen by senior RAF officers – led by Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Mark Flewin CBE MA BEng RAF.

A comprehensive assessment was made of the team – covering everything from safety management, work procedures and engagement plans for the season, to the content of commentary given during the display, engineering practices and the new show itself.

Following PDA, the pilots changed from their green coveralls, used during training, into their traditional red flying suits worn during the summer season. Similarly, the Red Arrows’ ground crew put on their blue suits – the colour giving this team their name.

These aviators and colleagues span many professions and roles, including operations, business and mission support staff, as well as public relations specialists, RAF visual communicators and survival equipment technicians. There is also a large, highly-motived team of RAF regular and reserve engineering personnel as well as dedicated civilian contractors.

They look after the Red Arrows’ distinctive BAE Systems Hawk T1 fast-jets, which are carrying 60th diamond season artwork and logos on the aircraft fuselage and tailfins during 2024.

Photographer: Cpl Phil Dye – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2024. MOD Crown Copyright News / Editorial Licence.

Squadron Leader Andy King, the Red Arrows’ Senior Engineering Officer, said:

“PDA is a really proud moment for all of the Blues. It represents the culmination of a busy and challenging six-months of activity by our hugely diverse team of trades and their many different outputs, to return to a nine-ship display.

“It vindicates every single person’s contribution – from the Circus and Dye Team through to logistics and quality management systems staff – ultimately demonstrating we are ready to safely deploy and display anywhere in the UK or overseas.”

The Red Arrows’ inaugural public display of 2024 is on Saturday, in Athens, followed by shows in Crete and France as the team heads back to RAF Waddington next week.

Midlands Air Festival, on May 31, will be the first domestic show of the 60th campaign – with the season running until early-October and expected to feature several special moments to mark the diamond theme.

The team will also be representing the RAF and the UK overseas during a five-week visit to Canada later this summer. Named Maple Hawk, the tour will honour a commitment to help celebrate the Royal Canadian Air Force’s centennial.

Wing Commander Adam Collins, Officer Commanding of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said:

“Through hard work and dedication, from every member and every department from within our 140-strong team, we are now ready to paint the skies red, white and blue across the UK and further afield.

“The entire team – both air and ground crews – have worked brilliantly to prepare this latest, best-of-British show of precision, colour and aerobatics and I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved together over the last six months.

“Whether it be at an airshow, with a flypast or through our wider engagement, we hope to inspire people and showcase the Royal Air Force. We can’t wait to meet everyone at these events and have the opportunity to join together and celebrate 60 sensational seasons of the Red Arrows.”

For more information on the Red Arrows’ new diamond display and list of show locations in 2024, visit the Displays section of the team’s website, follow @rafredarrows on Instagram or Twitter / X, like the team’s Facebook page at RAF Red Arrows, or head to the team’s playlist on the Royal Air Force’s YouTube channel.

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