Training begins for new Red Arrows pilots and 2019 season

Four new pilots have started training with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team ahead of the 2019 display season.

They will use the next seven months preparing to fly in what will be the Red Arrows’ 55th campaign since 1965.

Each of the latest recruits has previously operated frontline RAF aircraft, such as the Typhoon or Tornado, before being selected to join the team.

Flight Lieutenants Damo Green, David Simmonds and Gregor Ogston are completely new to the Red Arrows, while Squadron Leader Steve Morris returns for his second tour.

The four new pilots joining the Red Arrows for 2019
New pilots for 2019 (left-to-right): Flight Lieutenants Gregor Ogston, Damo Green and David Simmonds and Squadron Leader Steve Morris. Image by: SAC Rose Buchanan.

Their training got underway at the team’s Lincolnshire base this week.

Flt Lt Green, who will fly as Red 2 in the forthcoming season, was brought up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and flew the Typhoon operationally after joining the RAF in 2007.

He said the opportunity to help “inspire” individuals, particularly the next generation, was a key driver for him to apply to join the Red Arrows.

The 34-year-old said: “The opportunity to engage with people who you wouldn’t normally get to meet, encouraging and inspiring them to follow whatever they have a passion about is one of the aspects of the Red Arrows I’m most excited about.

Flight Lieutenant Damo Green - Red 2 in 2019
Flight Lieutenant Damo Green - Red 2 in 2019.

“The Red Arrows stand for excellence through dedication, skill and teamwork. I am extremely proud and humbled by the opportunity to join the team and look forward to the hard work ahead, in pursuit of a safe and enjoyable display season.”

Flying in the Red 3 position in 2019 will be 38-year-old Flt Lt Simmonds.

A former Air Cadet, he was born and brought up in Ipswich and is a previous Tornado GR4 pilot, who also flew the Harrier on exchange with the United States Marine Corps.

He said: “I used to attend airshows with my family and loved watching the Red Arrows display. They made me want to be a pilot in the first place so, having achieved that, the opportunity to join the team myself and be part of the display is a dream come true.

Flight Lieutenant David Simmonds - Red 3 in 2019
Flight Lieutenant David Simmonds - Red 3 in 2019.

 “I’m most looking forward to meeting supporters of the team at airshows and hopefully inspiring them to become the future of the RAF as the team did for me. I see it as my chance to give back to the RAF by telling future generations what fantastic opportunities are out there in the Service.”

There are nine pilots who fly in the Red Arrows’ precision displays, using the British-built BAE Systems Hawk T1 fast-jet.

These individuals are selected in a thorough process, involving interviews, flying tests and peer assessments.

However, before even applying for the team, a pilot must have amassed 1,500 flying hours, be classed as above average in their flying role and completed an operational tour – for example, helping to secure the skies of the UK on Quick Reaction Alert.

A pilot will then spend between two and four years with the team before returning to the frontline, instructional or staff duties.

Flt Lt Ogston, 32, is Red 4 for the 2019 season.

He grew up in Aberdeenshire, where he attended Banchory Academy, and was a member of the 2367 Air Cadet Squadron.

The former Harrier and Typhoon pilot, who joined the RAF in 2005, said: “As one of the finest display teams in the world, the opportunity to fly with the Red Arrows has been something I’ve aspired to for many years. I’m humbled to be joining the team and look forward to being able to inspire the next generation in the same way.

Flight Lieutenant Gregor Ogston - Red 4 in 2019
Flight Lieutenant Gregor Ogston - Red 4 in 2019.

“The Red Arrows are an iconic British team who represent the excellence of the RAF, the epitome of professionalism and outstanding teamwork. I’m immensely proud to be joining them.

“The unique nature of aerobatic flying will be very different to what I have experienced so far.  However, the requirement for hard work, meticulous preparation and teamwork is the same as any other job in the RAF.”

Sqn Ldr Morris returns to the Red Arrows as Red 5, following a previous tour with the team spanning the 2013-2016 seasons.

The 37-year-old is also from Sheffield and joined the RAF in 2002.

He went on to be selected to fly the Harrier GR9, becoming the last pilot to complete the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit. Sqn Ldr Morris then flew the Tornado GR4 before his time with the Red Arrows, where he was part of the Synchro Pair – the pilots who fly the most dynamic moves in the display.

More recently, he was posted to RAF Valley, where he instructed on IV Squadron and subsequently XXV(F) Squadron, training future fast-jet pilots.

His role for 2019 in the Red Arrows includes being “Uncle Enid” – a more experienced, senior pilot who acts as a mentor to newer members. Enid is the name of the front five positions in the nine-jet formation.

He said: “It’s a real honour and privilege to be selected to return to Red Arrows for two years.

“Since leaving the team in 2016 I was lucky enough to be posted to RAF Valley as a Flight Commander and instructor pilot on the Hawk T2. I believe that the skills I’ve developed during my time at Valley will be ideally suited to the mentoring role that I take on as Uncle Enid, working in support of the Team Leader. 

Squadron Leader Steve Morris - Red 5 in 2019
Squadron Leader Steve Morris - Red 5 in 2019.

“I have no doubt that the next two years will be both challenging and rewarding and it is something that I’m very much looking forward to.

“The team is a very special unit and the previous four years I served on the Red Arrows have given me some of the most memorable moments of my Royal Air Force career so far.  I can’t wait to see what the next two years will bring.”

Training for the new season usually lasts until late-May and includes a combination of flying in the UK, at the team’s base at RAF Scampton, and also overseas, where more settled, better weather allows focussed preparation.

Pilots fly up to three times a day, five days a week, meaning the Red Arrows’ support staff, including engineers and technicians, are very busy throughout this period.

Training lasts up to seven months before a display season.
Training lasts up to seven months before a display season.

The new season is expected to include a combination of domestic displays and a tour of North America, where the team – which is the public face of the RAF – will aim to support important UK interests across areas such as business, trade, education and defence.

For the latest season, the Red Arrows will be commanded by Wing Commander Andrew Keith and the nine-aircraft formation led by Red 1, Squadron Leader Martin Pert – who is entering his second year as the Team Leader.

The 2019 Red Arrows pilot line-up will be:

  • Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – Wing Commander Andrew Keith
  • Red 1 and Team Leader – Squadron Leader Martin Pert
  • Red 2 – Flight Lieutenant Damo Green
  • Red 3 – Flight Lieutenant David Simmonds
  • Red 4 – Flight Lieutenant Gregor Ogston
  • Red 5 – Squadron Leader Steve Morris
  • Red 6 – Flight Lieutenant Toby Keeley
  • Red 7 – Flight Lieutenant Jon Bond
  • Red 8 – Flight Lieutenant Chris Lyndon-Smith
  • Red 9 and Executive Officer – Flight Lieutenant Dan Lowes
  • Red 10 and Supervisor – Squadron Leader Adam Collins

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