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Air Cadets help launch Red Arrows 60th display season calendar

A VINTAGE jet, of the type used by the original Red Arrows, has flown alongside the present-day team to help mark their 60th display season.

The Folland Gnat, which dates from 1964, joined the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team’s distinctive BAE Systems Hawks above the skies of Lincolnshire.

Pilots and engineers from yesteryear, as well as Air Cadets representing the future of the RAF, were also at RAF Waddington for the special diamond season celebration.

Coinciding with the rare mixed formation flight, new dates and locations were released earlier today listing where people can see the 2024 Red Arrows team display in the United Kingdom this summer. The dates are available in the Displays section of the Red Arrows website.

RAF Red Arrow past and present

Squadron Leader Jon Bond, who will lead the team as Red 1 for the first time this year, said: “To bring together the past, present and potential future of the Red Arrows is the perfect way to launch our 60th season display calendar.

“The Red Arrows will perform a new, nine-aircraft show at locations across the UK this summer and the whole team of 140 people, both air and ground crew, are humbled by the countless individuals whom have already got in touch to say how they can’t wait to see this diamond display.

“I know, from my own childhood experience at airshows, just how many people – of all ages and backgrounds – these events bring together and how important they are to communities.

“Generations of families, up and down the country, have enjoyed watching the Red Arrows display ever since the first public show in 1965 and this 60th season will remain faithful to our aims – to entertain, inform and inspire.”

Training for the Red Arrows’ new season is continuing at RAF Waddington, with the first public appearance of the diamond campaign scheduled for late-May.

Dozens of dates, including coastal displays such as Blackpool Airshow and the opening day of the Eastbourne International Airshow, are on the 2024 calendar, alongside other big events including the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Armed Forces’ Day performances.

The season runs until early-October, with the Red Arrows also invited to Canada to perform at four airshows in late-summer to help celebrate the Royal Canadian Air Force’s centennial.

Folland Gnat in Yellowjacks livery

When in military service, the Folland Gnat – two of which came to RAF Waddington for the 60th launch event – was primarily used by the RAF as a training aircraft.

It was flown by the Red Arrows from the team’s first season in 1965 until being replaced by the bigger Hawk T1 in 1980.

Owned and operated by the Heritage Aircraft Trust, the jets visiting RAF Waddington were never actually part of the Red Arrows’ fleet.

However, one is painted in the bright livery associated with the Yellowjacks display team – one of the immediate predecessors of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

Accompanying the 1964-built yellow jet to Lincolnshire was another Gnat, a 1963-version painted in 4 Flying Training School colours. Among those attending today’s event were former Red Arrows engineers and pilots from the Gnat era, including some who were part of the original 1965 team.

Leader and Red 1 for four consecutive seasons between 1966 and 1969 – still a record to this day – as well as being a wingman in the team’s founding year was Squadron Leader Ray Hanna.

His daughter, Sarah, also joined the Red Arrows for the special occasion at RAF Waddington.

Sarah said: “For me, it has always been a point of great pride that my father led the team through those formative, critical years and established the foundations for its longevity.”

Cdt Sgt Rowley-White in a Red Arrows Hawk aircraft

Another of those at the event was Air Cadet Holly Rowley-White, who completed her first solo flight just five days after her 16th birthday in January this year.

Holly – a sergeant with 759 (Beccles) Squadron in Suffolk – said: “The opportunity to join the Red Arrows for this 60th milestone at RAF Waddington is like all my dreams and wishes have come true. I feel so privileged to be part of this special celebration and historical moment. When I found out I was attending I did not stop screaming for an hour! 


“One of my first recollections of watching the Red Arrows was in Great Yarmouth in 2018 when I was 10-years-old and I thought –‘I could do that one day’. I aspire to be a fast-jet pilot in the RAF and a future Red Arrows pilot.

It’s been amazing to meet the talented pilots and support staff, learn about the journey they have taken so far, what it takes to be the best and how proud they must feel to be part of the Red Arrows team for the 60th display season. Thank you to all of the Red Arrows team for giving me this opportunity – just wow!”.


Wing Commander Adam Collins, Officer Commanding of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “The Gnat is synonymous with the earliest days of the Red Arrows and this wonderful chapter of British aviation.

“Reuniting the aircraft, at our home base in Lincolnshire, with some of those who helped establish the team during the 1960s, as well as aviators of the future such as Holly, has been a great backdrop from which to launch our Diamond Season display dates.

“It’s through these forthcoming summer shows, colourful flypasts and engaging ground events that we hope to inspire even more generations.”