On Sunday 16 March 2014, eleven members from Southampton University Air Squadron travelled up to RAF Cranwell to then visit RAF Scampton in order to meet the Royal Air Force Aerobatics Team, the Red Arrows.
One of many interesting lessons learnt from the trip was how the Red Arrows are a team made up of over seventy personnel, including engineers, pilots, technicians and admin. The team operates under the overall command of Wing Commander Neil Fraser and from day-to-day operations Red 1; Squadron Leader Jim Turner takes control of all 9 pilots including himself.
SUAS had the privilege to be guided by Red 9, Flight Lieutenant Mike Child. The day started by a small tour of the crew room and a brief for the day. Flt Lt Child then introduced to us how the Red Arrows trained on a day-to-day basis teaching us how each aircraft and pilot is numbered and also a little about each pilot’s role is. We were also shown some exclusive video action filmed from inside the cockpit whilst flying and this gave us an understanding of what the pilot sees during an air display. He then invited us into a pre-flight brief for Reds 1 to 5 for their daily practice. The brief was highly precise and very efficient. Following the brief Reds 1 to 5 then went out to fly their sortie and we watched. Watching from the ground the sortie seemed perfect however when we got invited into the post flight de-brief, the pilots could pick out individual and team errors to continually improve the team. The Red Arrows are continuously improving their flying to make each display perfect; which is why they are one of the most prestigious aerobatics teams in the world.
Following this, the whole team of nine went to fly a ‘Flat’ show, which was due to the low cloud base. The practice lasted approximately fifteen minutes and each pilot performed as professionally as if they were performing in front of the public. Wg Cdr Fraser showed us how he listens in from the ground and taught us the importance of precise radio talk.
The day ended with a tour of the engineering side of the Red Arrows. Flight Lieutenant Mark Noye showed us the complex details of the BAE Systems Hawk T1 which, unlike the weapons trainer in RAF Valley the Red Arrows Jet, has had several changes made to it. First of the Aircraft has the HUD removed, it also has a smoke pod mounted on the undercarriage and the smoke controls are inside the cockpit. Flt Lt Noye also explained the G-Forces the aircraft has to undertake and how they maintain these jet aircraft.
Thank you to RAF Scampton for welcoming squadron members to visit and to Flt Lt Child, Flt Lt Noye and the whole Red Arrows Team for being so helpful and insightful. A thank you should also be extended to Off Cdt Oleksiy for organizing this base visit.