The Red Arrows Team News

31 May 2017

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Red Arrows begin new season with colourful additions to display

After months of training, the Red Arrows’ 2017 display season is officially getting underway.

Earlier today, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team was formally awarded its Public Display Authority (PDA).

2017 PDA InfinityIt marks the start of the 53rd season for the team, which aims to showcase the excellence of the Royal Air Force and represent the United Kingdom.

The Red Arrows’ nine fast-jet pilots are expected to perform more than 60 displays, involving precision flying, in front of millions of people across the country and overseas this summer.

Leading the team for his third and final year will be Red 1, Squadron Leader David Montenegro.

The 40-year-old, who was previously in the Squadron as a team pilot between 2009 and 2011, said: “More than six months of preparation, training and teamwork goes into a Red Arrows season and the award of Public Display Authority is a milestone moment for the entire Squadron.

“However, this focus and dedication shown by the team pilots, engineers and support staff alike does not stop now – the season is equally high-tempo and varied.

“Everyone in the Red Arrows relishes the opportunity to represent the Royal Air Force and Armed Forces and display to large, enthusiastic audiences across the UK and beyond, which is a huge honour and tremendously rewarding.”

Squadron Leader Montenegro is responsible for all aspects of the display, from running the training programme to creating the show routines, which change every season.

The former Tornado F3 pilot said there are a number of new moves and features added to the 2017 display which he believes will prove popular with those watching.

2017 PDA Wall ArrivalThe Team Leader said: “This year we have added some colourful changes to the display, for example, our Wall arrival will involve our signature red, white and blue smoke.

“After the favourable comments about our first season flying Tornado, we have adapted the manoeuvre so that the formation will now twist in front of the crowd, with Reds 8 and 9 rolling around the lead section's smoke.

“Technically, this is a real advancement from last year and, with the addition of colour, we are really looking forward to presenting our 2017 Tornado.2017 PDA Diamond

“Our signature Diamond is back in the show this year – when the weather allows, this shape will be flown as a quarter-clover towards the end of the first-half of the show.

“The finale to the entire display will be the Infinity Break, a manoeuvre not flown for several seasons and involves Red 1 creating an infinity sign before we split as a formation.

“I am particularly looking forward to re-introducing this manoeuvre as creating the correct shape involves a fluid roll and pitch input into the aircraft before re-centring into the exact middle of the formation as we enter the vertical split – display flying at its most enjoyable.”

Training for the new season began in December last year, at the Red Arrows’ home base of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

This was two months later than the traditional timescale, to allow the team to carry out its biggest tour in a decade – visiting 17 countries in nine weeks.

The deployment to Asia and the Middle East included displaying in China for the first time and supported UK interests across business, trade and education.

The final part of the 2017 training has taken place over the last five weeks at the Hellenic Air Force Base (HAF) in Tanagra, Greece.

The overseas element of the pre-season preparation allows the Red Arrows to take advantage of more settled weather and fly up to 15 displays a week to perfect and polish the show.

2017 PDA Group Shot StoryFollowing the display approval, the pilots were allowed to change from their green coveralls, used during training, into their famous red flying suits, which are worn during the season.

All Red Arrows pilots are from frontline squadrons and, before joining the team, operated jets such as the Tornado or the Typhoon – helping the Royal Air Force to project influence for the UK and secure the skies 365 days a year.

Gaining PDA was a poignant day for those pilots joining the team for the first time in 2017 – Flight Lieutenants Toby Keeley and Dan Lowes.

Red 3, Flight Lieutenant Lowes, said: “After seven months of hard training throughout the entire team, it’s was a fantastic feeling when we were awarded Public Display Authority. For me, personally, this is an incredibly satisfying achievement in my career."

In keeping with other Royal Air Force units, a huge team effort is required to allow the Red Arrows to display, from flight operations personnel and engineering technicians to administrators and suppliers.

The Squadron's support staff, who number more than 100, also changed their coveralls following PDA, into their famous royal blue flying suits. They are known as ‘the Blues’.

Head of the engineering management is the Senior Engineering Officer, Squadron Leader Richard Bland.

Born and raised in Lincolnshire, Squadron Leader Bland spent three years working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a Typhoon and weapons engineering advisor to the Royal Saudi Air Force before joining the Red Arrows.

Responsible for all engineering and logistical matters for the team, he said: “It’s been an enormous achievement for the Blues to get to PDA post the 2016 global tour.

“Morale is extremely high amongst support personnel right now as Exercise Springhawk allows us to really galvanise as a team.

“During the winter, the technicians work long hours and at RAF Scampton the winter line also brings weather frustrations.

“This year there has been no respite as we have needed to achieve high serviceability almost immediately after the 2016 Asia and Middle East tour to achieve the shortened work-up period.

2017 PDA Blues Working“Over the past five weeks, the Circus team – who look after the jets when away from RAF Scampton during the season – have fine-tuned their flight line activity and now look immaculate, while the new dye team, responsible for the famous smoke trails, have gained familiarity with their equipment, have maximised their efficiency and learned how to work seamlessly with the Circus.

“We can rotate our people through various roles in this working environment, which gives us much greater flexibility throughout the season.

“We have also focussed upon continuous improvement and our journey towards excellence.

“Importantly, newcomers to the Red Arrows, like myself, get to know the whole team both professionally and socially and we come away from Greece having developed the trust and unity to deliver confidently the 2017 display season.

“It’s also important to mention the unsung heroes back home – we have people back in the UK providing essential home-based support, but also families, whose tolerance, understanding and support is hugely appreciated and vital to the morale of our people whilst operating away from home.”

Beginning with small groups of three or four aircraft, training develops over several months for the Red Arrows before a display season begins.

Pilots fly three times a day, five days a week – until the team’s full nine-ship formation comes together around February or March.

Each sortie follows the same two-hour cycle of pre-flight briefing, the flight itself and a thorough, detailed and analytical debrief. The aim is constant improvement.

PDA follows a two-day assessment by a senior Royal Air Force officer.

2017 PDA AOC 22GpThe Royal Air Force’s Air Officer Commanding, 22 Training Group, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Turner, observed all aspects of the team, on the ground and in the air.

This is to ensure the team satisfies the highest safety standards and is performing a display that is a credit to both the Service and UK.

The process of taking the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team’s kit and equipment back to the UK will now begin. Much of this goes by road and is carried out by drivers and specialists from 2 MT Squadron – a mechanical transport unit based at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire.

A convoy made up of 11 personnel, eight trucks and one support vehicle delivered the 48.2 tonnes of cargo 1,714 miles from the UK to Greece before Exercise Springhawk got underway in April. The return leg is now starting, meaning 2 MT Squadron will have covered 3,428 miles in total over a three-week journey there and back.

Technicians from 5001 Squadron, again based at RAF Wittering, have also been kept very busy, preparing and servicing the trailers used in the convoy.

The Red Arrows will return to the UK on Friday, with the 2017 team’s first UK appearance being a display at Torbay on Saturday.

For more information on the Red Arrows, follow @rafredarrows on Twitter, like team’s Facebook page at RAF Red Arrows, view pictures on Instagram at rafredarrows or visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds.

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