British astronaut Tim Peake has spoken about how aerospace can help inspire future generations after flying with the Red Arrows.
He joined the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team for a scheduled, practice flight which involved a 20-minute display.
The astronaut flew in the rear seat of Red 1’s aircraft, getting to feel, first-hand, the team’s hallmark combination of close-formations, precision passes and dynamic loops and rolls.
One of the manoeuvres featuring in the Red Arrows’ 2019 show, which Mr Peake was able to experience, is Apollo – involving all nine of the team’s fast-jets, arranged in a shape that marks Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
He said: “What a huge honour and privilege to join the Red Arrows today – a fantastic flight. It was brilliant to fly with Red 1, to see not only what was going on in the front but also looking back at the amazing formations. I fulfilled a boyhood dream today, I really have.”
Mr Peake flew in a practice show by the Red Arrows at RAF Fairford – venue for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), which gets underway tomorrow.
Both the Red Arrows and the astronaut are ambassadors for promoting science, technology, engineering and maths – the so-called STEM subjects – and aim to inspire people to consider careers involving these areas.
Mr Peake said: “STEM is so important – what it does for young people is to provide opportunities in life.
“By studying STEM, you are going to give yourself the maximum opportunities to go into a variety of exciting and interesting careers. And it’s a workplace where we have a real shortage here in the UK, so we need to encourage younger generations to get involved in science, engineering and technology.”
Born in Chichester, West Sussex, Mr Peake studied at the University of Portsmouth before attending the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
He flew Apache helicopters with the British Army Air Corps before later inspiring millions with an 186-day mission working on the International Space Station. He returned to Earth after this mission in June 2016.
The astronaut flew in the rear seat of a jet flown by Squadron Leader Martin Pert – Red 1 and Team Leader of the Red Arrows.
Squadron Leader Pert said: “It was a huge privilege to fly Tim Peake. He is such an experienced aviator and astronaut – it was a boyhood dream for me to have him join the Red Arrows in a display.
“Tim is clearly used to the physiological effects of going into space and whilst the G-forces aren’t quite the same, he had absolutely no problems with flying in our dynamic display and he loved the flight.”
Squadron Leader Pert said it was a particularly poignant time to fly the astronaut, given the moon landing milestone.
He said: “Tim had actually already spotted the significance of having the Apollo formation in our 2019 display. To have Tim on board, as we approach this weekend’s 50th anniversary, was just incredible.”
Speaking about the common interest in promoting STEM subjects, Red 1 said: “Clearly, with Tim having been to space, he’s been at the pinnacle of science and technology, while the Red Arrows represent agility, precision and engineering excellence.
“It was a real inspiration flying a British astronaut and hopefully the combined assets of the Red Arrows and Tim Peake will encourage future generations to think about what exciting roles they can pursue.”
Find out more about how the RAF is inspiring STEM careers
Wing Commander Andrew Keith, Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “Being able to fly Tim Peake on the anniversary of the Apollo landings is a real highlight for the Red Arrows.
“We were honoured to have him as part of the team and we all share an important goal of inspiring the next generation.”
For more information on the Red Arrows, follow @rafredarrows on Twitter, like the team’s Facebook page at RAF Red Arrows, view pictures on Instagram @rafredarrows or visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds