Pilots bid farewell to Red Arrows after 2019 season

Four pilots have officially said goodbye to the Red Arrows after amassing an amazing 17 display seasons between them.

They have each just come to the end of their tours with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

An event last week marked the formal close of the 2019 campaign.

The 55th display season involved the Red Arrows carrying out an 11-week, coast-to-coast tour of North America promoting the United Kingdom.

The four pilots leaving the Red Arrows after the 2019 season.
The 2019 leavers (left-to-right): Flt Lt Dan Lowes, Sqn Ldr Mike Bowden, Flt Lt Toby Keeley and Flt Lt Chris Lyndon-Smith

Among those leaving is Red 3, Squadron Leader Mike Bowden.

He was recalled to the team earlier in the year, to fill-in for a colleague who was recovering from a sports injury.

Sqn Ldr Bowden, who has completed five seasons as a Red Arrows pilot and will now fly for an airline, said: “It was my childhood dream to be part of this team, so I’ll always look back on it with immense fondness.

“I’ll miss so many aspects of the Red Arrows – from putting the famous smoke on over a big crowd to going upside down in a jet.

Sqn Ldr Mike Bowden
Sqn Ldr Mike Bowden has completed five seasons with the Red Arrows.

“Also, on the ground, it’s been fantastic to have the opportunity to meet countless people at shows and other events.”

Flight Lieutenant Toby Keeley, Red 6, leaves the team after three seasons.

As the Synchro Leader in 2019, he has been responsible for many of the most dynamic and well-known parts of the aerobatic display – such as the Heart and Carousel.

Serving in the RAF for 16 years, he said he will look back with “extremely fond memories – particularly of the comradeship and friendships”.

He is now moving to pastures-new, pursuing a career in the airline industry.

Flt Lt Toby Keeley
Flt Lt Toby Keeley ranks the overseas tours among his Red Arrows highlights.

Flt Lt Keeley said: “For me, flying fast-jets doesn’t get any better than flying in the Red Arrows, it is the pinnacle of fast-jet flying and I feel very proud to have fulfilled my lifelong ambition.

“What’s great about this job is being constantly reminded of how proud the UK public are of the Red Arrows and I have truly loved being an ambassador for the country, particularly in the role of meeting and inspiring younger people.

“My timing in joining the team has been great. I have been extremely lucky to be part of the team during the RAF100 celebrations in 2018 and overseas tours to the Far East, Middle East and more recently to North America, flying over some of the world’s most iconic landmarks.”

He added: “I’ll never forget the excitement of my first ever display at Torbay as a Red Arrow or flying down The Mall in London for Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday.

“Displaying over Monaco during my second year, as Synchro Two, was pretty special but to top it off, flying as the Synchro Leader over Huntingdon Beach, California, was a truly great way to wrap up my RAF flying career.

The Red Arrows over Huntington Beach, California.
The Red Arrows over Huntington Beach, California.

“I wish the team continued success for the future and would like to especially thank my family and friends for their support.”

Most Red Arrows pilots join the team for three seasons.

However, Flight Lieutenant Chris Lyndon-Smith was fortunate enough to carry out two tours.

The 2019 season was his sixth in total – the last of two separate stints with the Red Arrows and the culmination of a great flying career with the RAF.

Incredibly, he’s flown in six different positions across the team’s Diamond Nine formation during his spells with the Red Arrows.

Flt Lt Lyndon-Smith, who is leaving the RAF to fly for an airline, said: “I’m very proud to have flown as Red 2, 7, 6, 5, 4 and, most recently 8, as part of my two terms.

“It’s been an incredible second stint with the team – not least becoming a dad for the first time during this period.

Flt Lt Chris Lyndon-Smith
Flt Lt Chris Lyndon-Smith has flown in six different positions during his Red Arrows career.

“These last three years have reconfirmed why being a Red Arrows pilot is such a special role and why it’s an honour to be selected to wear the red suit.

“I’ve met some amazing people, had the opportunity to take a jet to many awesome places and have done some very exciting flying across the UK.

“Major highlights include those big tours to Canada, the United States and the Middle East, as well as displaying in Monaco.”

Also departing the team is Flight Lieutenant Dan Lowes, who flew as Red 9 in 2019 and was the Executive Officer. It was his third season with the Red Arrows.

The former Typhoon pilot said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to serve our magnificent country as a member of this world-class outfit.

The Red Arrows have a core aim – to constantly pursue excellence and I have loved every single second I have been a part of that.

“Every day, at every level, you see the men and women of that unit putting in extra effort to succeed – that is how we took 12 aircraft from Lincolnshire to California and back again.

“We crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice, displayed over the eastern and western shores of the United States and Canada and met thousands of people.

“They will be the proudest moments of my professional career and I’m so thankful to be able to say I was there.

Flt Lt Dan Lowes
Flt Lt Dan Lowes, who leaves after three seasons, thanked his family for their support.

“But, as for us all, this wouldn’t have been possible without the love and the support from those at home.

“To my parents, my sister and brother, my beautiful fiancée and to all my family and friends who have been there for the ride – thank you so much.”

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