Red Arrows News

Longest-serving Red Arrows engineer recognised by the team

A RED Arrows engineer who has been part of the team for more than 20 years has been recognised by his peers.

Corporal Gary Cavanagh has been named “Blue of the Year” for his exceptional work at the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team over the last 12 months.

The title is awarded by other members of the Red Arrows’ support team – who are known as the Blues because of the colour of the ground crew’s distinctive coveralls.

Corporal Gary Cavanagh stood next to Red Arrows jet.
Corporal Gary Cavanagh, Blue of the Year 2020.

Gary, who joined the RAF in 1980, said: “Being recognised as the Blue of the Year was a huge honour and a true highlight.

“I feel extremely privileged to be selected by my work colleagues for this award as there are so many deserving individuals who have done an amazing job over the last year and continue to do so."

Gary began his RAF career as  an airframe mechanic, completing initial technical training at RAF Halton before being posted to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, to work on the Jet Provost MK3A aircraft. 

Gary then returned to RAF Halton and qualified as an airframe technician in 1984. Following a short return to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Gary was then posted to RAF Honington, to work on the Tornado GR1 aircraft.

While there, he took an active part in the acceptance of the aircraft into service before moving to RAF Lossiemouth, where he worked on developing the Station to become an operational Tornado unit.

In 1997, Gary was selected as the manager of the Armed Forces’ Careers Office in Lincoln before joining the Red Arrows in 2000.

Gary said: “The first display season was an extremely busy period after joining the team. This was largely due to adjusting to life on the unit, with the constant challenges that are encountered throughout both the winter work-up period and the very busy summer display season.”

Gary’s day-to-day role on the team includes control, progression and archiving of all documentation relating to the Red Arrows’ Hawk aircraft and associated engines.

He is responsible for the preparation of scheduled maintenance and ensuring standards and airworthiness of the jets is maintained.

During his astonishing time on the team, Gary has served for 11 different Red 1s and 12 Senior Engineering Officers.

Blue of the Year celebrates the individual who, in the eyes of the other members of the team, has worked to an exceptional level, above and beyond what is expected from their normal role.

Corporal Gary Canagh stood next to the Blue of the Year tail fin.
Personnel recognised for the award will have their name added to the Blue of the Year tailfin, which stands at the entrance to the team's hangar.

Gary was nominated for his phenomenal service to the team, working within engineering records.

Gary, who has served in a full-time reserve role since 2007, said he had always wanted to be a part of the Red Arrows.

He said: “For any member of the Royal Air Force, especially an engineer, I consider this to be the pinnacle of anyone’s career.

Corporal Gary Cavanagh working in engineering records.
Corporal Cavanagh's daily role is working in Engineering Records.

“I am probably the longest serving member of the team to-date. Having experienced so much over my 21 years on the team, it is a privilege to be able to pass on my knowledge to the new members of the team.

"There have been many challenges over the years but, being part of the team, that constantly delivers and supports an intense, world-class flying programme, is something that I am always very proud to be associated with.”

“While many things have changed to support continual improvement, the one constant is the camaraderie and the privilege of working alongside so many experienced and talented colleagues, who have become very good friends.”

Flight Lieutenant Ben Ireland, the Red Arrows' Junior Engineering Officer, said: "There isn’t much that Gary hasn’t seen during his service and that, on many occasions, has played a vital role in the continuing operations of the team.

"From paint schemes to major engineering overhauls, Gary has been involved with it all. His knowledge and expertise has proven to be invaluable, hence the awarding of the Blue of the Year award."

There are more than 100 people in the Red Arrows’ support team. They comprise RAF regulars and reservists, Civil Servants and contractors, which is known as the Whole Force.

This highly-trained ground crew looks after an array of systems, logistics, equipment and plans – to ensure the jets can display safely in the air.

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