Three new pilots have joined the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team for its 2022 season.
They will fly with the Red Arrows in a year which will see the team perform across the United Kingdom and beyond.
Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat and Flight Lieutenants Stuart Roberts and Patrick Kershaw have begun preparations for the team's 58th display season.
Each is an experienced RAF officer, having all previously flown Typhoon or Tornado aircraft operationally.
The pilots succeed those leaving after the end of the 2021 campaign.
Flt Lt Stuart Roberts, 35, will fly as Red 2 for next year's display season.
He said the constant drive for excellence demanded by the team inspired him to apply for the Red Arrows.
He said: “I vividly remember seeing the team display as a young boy but, as I have spent more time in the Royal Air Force and had more insight into how the Red Arrows operate, I was drawn towards applying by its clear, common goal and the high levels of teamwork required from everyone involved to generate a consistent, world-leading display.”
Flt Lt Roberts, who was born in Germany, at RAF Wegberg, was educated at The Henry Box School, Witney, before studying geography at Loughborough.
He joined the Service in 2009 and flew the Typhoon aircraft operationally, including undertaking NATO air policing duties in Estonia and helping to secure the skies of the UK and the Falkland Islands by conducting Quick Reaction Alert.
One of the key criteria needed before an RAF fast-jet pilot can apply to be selected for the Red Arrows is to have completed frontline tours such as these.
Flt Lt Roberts said while there are obvious differences between operational and display flying, there are parallels:
Aerobatic flying as part of a nine-aircraft formation, as undertaken by the Red Arrows, is a very different physical skill set to conducting an operational sortie – however, the levels of concentration and precision required are directly comparable.
A Red Arrows display season traditionally starts around May and spans the summer months and early-autumn, with the team performing more than 60 times to millions of people.
In addition to the flying, team members carry out hundreds of ground engagements, from meeting veterans and crowds at airshows to visiting schools and colleges to promote the importance of the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.
Flt Lt Roberts said: “I am most looking forward to getting out and meeting people from all backgrounds and walks of life to share my passion for aviation and what the wider United Kingdom has to offer.”
Red 3 for 2022 will be Flt Lt Patrick Kershaw.
Huddersfield-born, he completed a degree in business administration at Leicester De Montfort University, where he was a member of East Midlands Universities’ Air Squadron, and in his final year received an RAF bursary – going on to join the Service in 2006.
He was selected to fly fast-jets and, following training, was posted to the Tornado GR4 at RAF Marham. During his time on the Tornado he took part in operations over North Africa and the Middle East as well as numerous multinational exercises.
More recently, Flt Lt Kershaw has flown the Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coninsgby.
The 36-year-old said he is proud to be joining the Red Arrows for 2022.
He said: “Innovation, precision, teamwork are all at the forefront of what we do in the team and these qualities are shared throughout numerous industries in the UK.
“Being able to represent this as an ambassador for the next three years will be a privilege and honour.”
Flt Lts Roberts and Kershaw are two of nine Red Arrows display pilots.
They are selected in a careful process, involving interviews, flying tests, knowledge of the team and peer assessments.
Before being eligible to apply, an RAF pilot must have amassed 1,500 flying hours, be classed as above average in their flying role and completed an operational tour.
A pilot will then usually spend three years with the team before returning to the frontline, instructional or staff duties.
Flt Lt Kershaw said there were several motivations for applying to join the Red Arrows.
He said: “Firstly, the challenge of achieving the highest standards in order to provide the safest and most thrilling display possible for the public.
“Secondly, the other big driver, is being able to meet the public before and after displays and be able to showcase the skills and capabilities of the RAF.”
Coordinated by Red 1, training for the 2022 season is now underway at the Red Arrows’ home base of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
Starting with small formations of only a few aircraft before gradually building up to the team’s trademark full nine-ship formation, pilots fly up to three-times-a-day using the Hawk T1.
This period is only completed when the team passes an assessment, after around six months of hard work and known as Public Display Authority - signified by pilots and ground crew being able to wear their red and blue flying suits respectively, instead of the green coveralls used during the pre-season phase.
The aim of this training is constant improvement and each sortie is scrutinised in great detail.
One of the most important people in this process is the team’s Supervisor, known as Red 10.
Joining the Red Arrows in this role for the next display season is Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat.
He will succeed Sqn Ldr Adam Collins, who has been in this position since late-2017, around March.
Red 10 is the team’s safety supervisor for all practices and displays, maintaining radio contact with Red 1 from the ground. Other key tasks include coordinating the season, taking the spare aircraft between locations and flying the team’s photographers.
For crowds at displays and airshows, Red 10 is also the voice of the Red Arrows – commentating at events.
Sqn Ldr Muscat, who was born in Great Sutton, Cheshire, and educated at Whitby High School, Ellesmere Port, said: “The Red Arrows are the best of British. The fact I can now stand as an ‘ambassador’ not only for the United Kingdom but also for the Royal Air Force is amazing and one which will be the highlight of my career to date and one I’m extremely humbled and proud to be doing.”
The 46-year-old joined the Royal Air Force in 1995 as a Communications System Analyst and, in 1998, became Non-Commissioned Aircrew as an Air Signaller.
He was selected for a Commission and pilot training in 2003, starting Initial Officer Training a year later.
Sqn Ldr Muscat flew the Tornado GR4 on the frontline as well as in multinational exercises and, more recently, he has been a Flight Commander on the Hawk T2 at RAF Valley.
Even before his Royal Air Force, the incoming Red 10 was interested in aviation as a teenager – being an Air Cadet with 1074 Ellesmere Port Sqn.
He said the aim of the Red Arrows in inspiring the next generation was a crucial part of the team’s role.
Sqn Ldr Muscat said: “I can remember being one of the crowd at airshows, both as a child and as young adult, watching not only the Red Arrows but any military flying and just being awestruck.
“As you can see from my career path, I didn’t join direct as a pilot and had to work up through the ranks because I never let go of my dream and aspirations.
The Red Arrows can inspire anyone and everyone to really be their best and reach their true potential.
“So, for me, providing a great show and meeting and inspiring the public will be a brilliant experience.”
He said the handover for such a complex role as Red 10 is carefully managed.
Sqn Ldr Muscat said: “Clearly, Squadron Leader Collins and before him Squadron Leader Mike Ling have been fantastic at the role so I’m acutely aware of the responsibility.
“Due to the nature of both our jobs, Adam and I have been slowly doing the handover over the last few months but, of course, the pandemic has made the attendance at airshows a little trickier than normal but we have managed to do be at the same show a few times, which gave me a real sense of that aspect of the role.
“As we head into winter training, Adam has really been including me in everything that is required to ensure the 2022 season will go as well as every other previous season.”
Details of where the Red Arrows will be displaying in 2022 will be released in the New Year.
The full pilot line-up for the next season is:
- Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – Wing Commander David Montenegro
- Red 1 and Team Leader – Squadron Leader Tom Bould
- Red 2 – Flight Lieutenant Stuart Roberts
- Red 3 – Flight Lieutenant Patrick Kershaw
- Red 4 – Flight Lieutenant Will Cambridge
- Red 5 – Squadron Leader Nick Critchell
- Red 6 and Synchro Leader – Squadron Leader Gregor Ogston
- Red 7 and Synchro Two – Flight Lieutenant James Turner
- Red 8 and Executive Officer – Flight Lieutenant Damo Green
- Red 9 – Flight Lieutenant David Simmonds
- Red 10 and Supervisor (from March 2022) – Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat