Two Red Arrows pilots have flown their final sorties with the team – including one who is among the most experienced in its history.
Squadron Leader Steve Morris has completed seven seasons as a display pilot, across two separate tours.
Also leaving the team is Squadron Leader Jon Bond, who has notched up an impressive four straight years as a team pilot, culminating in leading the Synchro Pair.
The Red Arrows’ final public display for the team’s 2021 season was staged this week, which saw a performance above the HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier in Portsmouth.
It marked the last show for Sqn Ldrs Bond and Morris, Reds 6 and 9 respectively.
Sqn Ldr Morris, whose first season was 2013, said: “My seven years with the Red Arrows have been the most enjoyable years of my life.
“It’s been a busy, intense job but incredible to represent the Royal Air Force and the United Kingdom.”
Usually, Red Arrows pilots serve a three-year tour with team but, occasionally, operational reasons or other circumstances see a longer posting.
For example, with so many airshows and events cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the pilots’ positions were frozen for a further season, to ensure a level of continuity and experience.
Sqn Ldr Morris said: “To be able to be part of such a special team has been a great privilege, both in terms of the flying and also the opportunity to hopefully inspire individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
“To have the honour of meeting so many different people, from all walks of life, will be my lasting memory of my time at the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.”
Originally from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sqn Ldr Morris first joined the RAF in 2002 and previously flew the Harrier and Tornado before applying for the Red Arrows.
In total, Sqn Ldr Morris has amassed 1,765 flying hours with the team, clocking-up more than 400 public displays.
During their tenures with the Red Arrows, both pilots have displayed for tens of millions of people and represented the United Kingdom at events across the globe.
Sqn Ldr Morris, who has flown in the Red 5, 6, 7 and 9 positions during his two periods on the team, said: “I’ve been very fortunate to display with the Red Arrows in dozens of countries.
“During my first time with the team, a tour of the Gulf region and a display at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai was a genuine highlight as was being Synchro Leader for the team’s visit to China in 2016.
“More recently, a standout moment of my second term as a Red Arrows pilot is during our North American tour in 2019 and, in particular, the flypast of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and displaying at beautiful Huntington Beach, on the Californian coastline.
“Our flypast over London, as the country was only gradually emerging from its first lockdown last year, to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, was also an occasion I’ll never forget.”
On what the future holds, Sqn Ldr Morris said: “I’m keeping my options open at the moment as to the longer-term and what I do next in my career.
“In the short term I start a civilian flying course, in order to gain my Commercial Pilot’s Licence.”
He added: “Thank you to every member of the Red Arrows family I’ve worked with during these seven years and I wish the team continued success representing the best of British in the next season and beyond.”
Sqn Ldr Bond, whose first season was flying as Red 2 in 2018, said there were many highlights of his time with the team.
He said: “Being part of a huge, historic flypast over London, comprising more than 100 other aircraft, to mark the RAF’s centenary was a spectacular and memorable moment from my initial year.
“The 11-week tour of North America in 2019, with so many exciting displays and flights over famous landmarks, will stand out as one of the incredible highlights of not just my time with the Red Arrows but my entire RAF flying career.
“Although, the series of bespoke flypasts carried out in 2020 – during the peak of the pandemic – resonate most strongly with me, during such a strange time for everyone.
“It was great to provide a little bit of cheer to those during lockdown and the appreciation we received as a team in return was immensely humbling.”
Essex-born Sqn Ldr Bond joined the RAF in 2006. A former Tucano display pilot, he flew the Typhoon operationally – an aircraft he’s returning to after leaving the Red Arrows.
Of his four seasons with the team, Sqn Ldr Bond has been part of the Synchro Pair – flying as either Reds 6 and 7 – for three of them.
In this role, he’s flown some of the most dynamic and well-known manoeuvres in a Red Arrows’ display, such as the Mirror Roll, Heart and Spear and Boomerang.
He said: “Clearly, flying at 100ft pointing at another aircraft is something I am incredibly privileged to have done during my Service career and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
“However, living and breathing the whole team ethos, in striving to achieve the goal of delivering a display season to a standard of excellence on a daily basis, is what I have enjoyed the most.”
Sqn Ldr Bond added: “I have been incredibly proud to wear the red suit for four years and, I certainly believe, the glow surrounding the team has grown ever brighter, even in that short period of time.
“It has been a total honour to be part of Red Arrows history in some small way and to work with such driven and capable colleagues and I wish the team the very best for the future.”
New pilots for the 2022 campaign have been selected and the team line-up for the next year will be announced when training gets underway following a post-season break in November.