22 November 2017

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Skilled engineers from the Royal Air Force’s 71 Inspection & Repair Squadron are at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, restoring a Red Arrows Hawk jet to flying order.

In the hangar at RAF Scampton

In July the Red Arrows were flying in the north of England when a bird struck the side of a Hawk jet. The highly-trained pilot landed the aircraft as planned and the fuselage skin did not seem severely disturbed, but closer inspection revealed damage to the structure beneath.

Cpl Lambie (left) and SAC (T) Seath (right)

71 Inspection & Repair (IR) Squadron is headquartered at Royal Air Force Wittering. Here RAF technicians learn the skills needed to repair aircraft structure. 71 (IR) works to rigorous standards; its technicians even built the tailfin and floor of the Bloodhound supersonic car.

At RAF Scampton 71 (IR) Squadron will repair and return the Hawk aircraft to the Red Arrows. Preparations for the 2018 season are underway, with the Red Arrows practising manoeuvres and forming a display that will be seen by millions of people in the RAF’s 100th year.

71 (IR) Squadron’s principal role is to repair damaged structure on UK fixed wing military aircraft in deployed locations. The Squadron has its own designers, who devise solutions where ordinary fixes may not be effective.

SAC (T) Simon Seath at work on the Red Arrows’ Hawk

Once the damage had been assessed the manufacturer supplied a repair scheme and the technicians, Corporal Angus Lambie and Senior Aircraftman (Technician) Simon Seath, started work. It is precision work, with many of the replacement parts crafted by the technicians specifically for this job.

SAC (T) Simon Seath at work on the Red Arrows’ Hawk

Senior Aircraftman Technician Seath said: “This is a very detailed process. New components must be adjusted until they fit exactly but we’re trained to understand schematics, produce components and install them perfectly.”

The work needs total concentration. In addition to the newly manufactured components, over 70 holes will have to be precision drilled in order to securely fit the new parts. When finished, the skin will be as smooth as the surrounding surfaces and the structure beneath will be better than new.

A close up showing the precision work on the Hawk

Wing Commander Craig Watson is the principal engineer at RAF Wittering, 71 Squadron is a part of his organisation. He said: “The Red Arrows are a great part of British life and 71 Sqn works closely with the team to keep their aircraft safe and ready to fly.”

The Wing Commander concluded: “The Red Arrows and 71 Sqn highlight the engineering expertise that is critical to the Royal Air Force. For young people who might want to work on amazing aircraft it all starts with STEM; Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.”

Editor: Ed Palmer

Photographer: SAC Rose Buchanan & Supplied Images

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2017

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