The Soaring Success of the Red Arrows

The Red Arrows is a renowned aerobatic team that has gained world-wide recognition for its exciting and colorful displays. Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows serve as ambassadors for the Royal Air Force as well as the United Kingdom. Since being formed in 1965, the Red Arrows have visited 52 countries, skillfully demonstrating the capabilities of their airplanes in over 4,000 displays. The badge for the Red Arrows depicts the aircraft in the diamond nine-formation that has become their trademark. The motto “Eclat” meaning “Excellence” also appears on the badge.

The ongoing success of the Red Arrows is dependent on the nine skilled pilots who put on awe-inspiring aerobatic displays. However, they would not be in a position to do this without the extraordinary support of one hundred team members who put in a lot of hard work to ensure that everything behind the scenes is running smoothly, from airplane maintenance to taking care of the administrative duties. The excellent reputation of the Red Arrows is built on the personal commitment of each Royal Air Force trained member of this team.

The Red Arrows have been using the dual control BAE Hawk since 1979. The Hawk has a Rolls Royce Adour engine which produces 5,200 lbs of thrust capable of powering the aircraft to a top speed of Mach 1.2. The maximum altitude for the Hawk is 48,000 ft and its fuel capacity covers a range of 1,000 nm which allows it to reach most countries world-wide. The aircraft used by the Red Arrows is fundamentally the same as those used by the RAF for Advanced Flying Training, with a slightly modified engine that allows for a faster response time and equipment for smoke generation. The colorful vapor that trails behind the airplanes during a display is produced by a mixture of diesel and colored dye that is pumped into the jet exhaust by the smoke generation system.

Anyone can request a display or fly-past by the Red Arrows except for weddings, funerals and birthdays. Of the approximately 300 requests received during a flying season (which is from May to September each year) the Red Arrows are only able to fit about 80 into their program. A fly-past can only be accommodated if it is en-route to the area that the Red Arrows will be putting on a display.

This team does not only perform aerobatic displays though. They are also actively involved in the armed forces of the United Kingdom. Many of the Red Arrow’s pilots as well as the support staff have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those members of the team who are not sent into active duty will resume supporting the Royal Air Force operational teams.

If you are fortunate enough to be a spectator at a Red Arrows display or air show, while you marvel at the skill of these pilots and the engineering of the airplanes, give a thought to the men and women behind the scenes who help to make this possible.