A Red Arrows pilot said being part of the team for the last four years has been a “genuine boyhood dream come true”.
Flight Lieutenant Mike Bowden, who has flown as Red 9 in 2018, is leaving the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.
He is one of four Red Arrows pilots whose time with the team came to an end this week.
Educated in Newport, South Wales, Flt Lt Bowden joined the RAF in 2002 before going on to fly the Harrier GR9 and Tornado GR4.
After coming to the Red Arrows for the 2015 season, he has flown as Red 2, 4, 8 and 9.
In the final post in a series of articles from the departing pilots this week, these are his own thoughts on the highlights of his time with the team:
“The last four years of being a Red Arrows pilot has been a genuine boyhood dream come true. The experience has been everything I could have ever wanted and more.
"It is a shame to have to leave but we all know that good things come to an end.
“I have got so many highlights and amazing memories to look back on – looping and rolling on the boss’s wing for the first time to eventually putting the red suit on for that initial season.
“There has also been taking part in two major overseas tours to the Middle and Far East, visiting places that I would have never planned to, and meeting so many different people from all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds.
“Also, flying in formation with a multitude of different iconic aircraft and display teams and, ultimately, the lasting memory of being upside down and looking down at the incredible crowds of people that have come out to enjoy our performance.
“The opportunities that this job have offered me are virtually endless to talk about – from getting to meet the thousands of supporters on the ground at the various air shows to being able to put smiles on the faces of poorly children at Great Ormond Street Hospital close to Christmas time.
One of my favourite roles in this job has been speaking to our younger generations.
"I was inspired by the Reds at a young age and it gave me the drive to chase it.
"If I’ve managed to spark inspiration into just a single person and given them some focus for the future, then I’d certainly feel a big part of my job was done.
“It has been incredibly special to be part of such a close-knit team, all striving to consistently perform to our very best. That is the Reds and the Blues alike, our amazing support team that have looked after me and our aircraft for many years.
"I have made many lifelong friends and certainly created lifelong memories.pilots who begin their experience and whom will continue to uphold the very best of Red Arrows traditions.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have worn the famous red suit for four years and wish all the very best to the new team
“I look forward to being back amongst the crowds at a show very soon and watching on with the fondest of memories just as I did back where my journey began.
“It has been an absolute blast! ECLAT.”