First nine-ship for 2016 Red Arrows team
THE 2016 Red Arrows team have reached a major milestone in their training – flying together for the first time in a practice display.
Earlier today, the first so-called “nine-ship” of the year was completed at RAF Scampton, the Lincolnshire home of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.
The Squadron is renowned for displaying with nine, British-built fast-jets and bringing the whole formation together is a key moment in the six-month winter training programme.
The occasion saw the team’s trademark Diamond Nine formation flown, among other manoeuvres that will feature in this year’s show.
Two of the Red Arrows' nine pilots are new to the team for 2016.
Flight Lieutenant Matt Masters, who is Red 2 and a former Tornado pilot, said: “The first nine-ship is the culmination of many months of training and a relentless effort by the whole team – flying several times a day and gradually adding more and more elements to the sorties.
“It’s a very rewarding moment, as a pilot new to the Red Arrows, to reach this milestone and see the whole formation together.
“However, it is just another step in the training programme and our constant pursuit of excellence.
“There are still many sorties to be flown before the team prepares for Public Display Authority, with the aim of performing shows across the UK and overseas this summer.”
The Red Arrows begin training for the forthcoming season almost as soon as the previous year has ended.
Typically, winter training starts in October, with small groups of three or four aircraft formations.
Each pilot flies three sorties a day, five days a week, and the formations grow in aircraft number as training progresses.
These flights involve a thorough brief, debrief and discussion to ensure safety is paramount and the formations are precise.
Winter training lasts until mid-March, when the team usually moves overseas to a location with more predictable, settled weather to maximise flying hours and perfect the display. This is known as Exercise Springhawk.
Flight Lieutenant Si Taylor, Red 3, who also previously flew operationally in the Tornado and Typhoon and is entering his first year with the team, said: “Taking part in my first nine-ship practice was an incredible feeling.
“Knowing that all the intense training over the last few months with Red 1 was finally coming together felt amazing.
“We were also lucky with the weather today and were able to fly in blue skies. I’m now looking forward to perfecting my performance in the lead up to the 2016 display season”.
The first nine-ship is an important occasion for the whole Squadron – including the ground team, who number more than 100 and comprise technicians, suppliers, drivers, photographers, administrators, operations staff and a public relations department.
Each has a crucial part to play in ensuring the Red Arrows can fly and perform precision displays around the world.
Among those people with a role in today’s nine-ship were the technicians on the flightline – responsible for checking the aircraft are safe for flight, assisting the crewing-in of the pilots into the cockpits and marshalling the jets from their parking stands.
For the majority of this group – who included four 19-year-olds – the Red Arrows represents their first posting in their Royal Air Force careers.
Flight Lieutenant Marcus Ramsden, the team’s Junior Engineering Officer, who is responsible for day-to-day engineering issues on the Squadron, said: “Achieving the first nine aircraft practice has taken months of engineering planning.
“The team couldn’t have achieved this milestone without the dedication and passion of everyone involved – including skilled technicians working day and night.
“Along with providing aircraft for the flying programme, we have been working behind-the-scenes to prepare the aircraft for the display season.
“Work doesn’t stop now as our next focus is preparing for Exercise Springhawk.”
During Springhawk the team is assessed by senior Royal Air Force officers, with the aim of gaining Public Display Authority.
If this is awarded, the Squadron’s pilots change from green coveralls into their famous red flying suits and the ground crew are allowed to wear their royal blue display coveralls.
The season then officially begins and public performances by the Red Arrows are permitted.
It is hoped the first display to the public in the UK will be on May 8 this year, for the Shuttleworth Season Premiere, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.
For more information about the 2016 season, visit: http://www.raf.mod.uk/reds/displays/displaydates.cfm