Monday the 13th March saw the British Airshow Review team visit the world famous Royal Air Force Aerobatic team the Red Arrows at their home base of RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire to catch up with them, to see how winter training is progressing ahead of the 2017 display season.

Formed in 1965, having flown 4,800 displays in 57 countries 2017 will be the teams 53rd display season. This year’s team is led by – Squadron Leader Red 1 David Montenegro who is currently in his third year as the Team Leader, having previously been a member of the team from 2008 – 2010.  Red 2 this year is flown by – Flight Lieutenant Toby Keeley with 2017 being his first season with the team, prior to joining the Red Arrows Toby was a Qualified Flying Instructor on IV Squadron based at RAF Valley, there he flew the Hawk T2, he was also the team manager and pilot with the Hawk T2 Pair Role Demonstration in 2015.  Red 3 is also flown by yet another new pilot for this season this being – Flight Lieutenant Dan Lowes, Dan joins the team from flying the typhoon on 41 squadron based at RAF Coningsby.  Red 4 this year is – Flight Lieutenant Matt Masters, this being Matt’s 2nd year with the team after joining in 2016 from 100 Squadron based at RAF Leeming.  Red 5 is – Flight Lieutenant Chris Lyndon-Smith, he is another returning pilot to the team after re-joining in 2016 after having previously flow with the team between 2011-13  flying in the Red 2,7 and 6 positions.  Red 6 Synchro Leader is – Flight Lieutenant Tom Bould, Tom is now in his third and final year with the team having previously flown as Red 5 in the 2015 season and Red 7 last year, before joining the Red Arrows Tom was the 2010 Tucano display pilot and a typhoon pilot with 1 Squadron based at RAF Leuchars.  Red 7 Synchro two – Flight Lieutenant Si Taylor, this is Si’s second year with the team having previously been a flight instructor with 29(R) Sqn based at RAF Coningsby.  (You can find our interview with Si below). Red 8 – Flight Lieutenant Mike Bowden, now in his third year with the team before joining the Red’s Mike was a Qualified Flying Instructor with II(AC) Squadron based at RAF Marham.  Red 9 is – Flight Lieutenant Emmet Cox, Emmet is also now in his third and final year with the team, before joining the Red Arrows Emmet was a Qualified Flying Instructor with 72(R) Squadron based at RAF Linton-On-Ouse and flew the Tucano.  Red 10 team supervisor and commentator – Squadron Leader Mike Ling MBE,  Mike is now in his sixth year as Red 10 in a total he has spent nine years with the team, having flown as Red 3 in 2008, Red 7 in 2009 and Red 6 in 2010.

Red 7 Synchro two Flight Lieutenant Si Taylor Interview 

We asked about the Asia-Pacific and Middle East Tour which Si described as a 9 week adventure,  in which the jets, pilots and the entire support team performed fantastically.  Speaking of his highlights during the tour he told us of how the team displayed 9 times in 6 days, with one appearance on breakfast television to over 250 million people, saying the number of people who had watched them was incalculable, another personal highlight of his was a flypast, the team conducted over Kulumpa Lumpur, Malaysia at sunset past the twin towers describing this as being a once in a life time opportunity and being extremely lucky to be allowed to have the airspace clearance, as it was effectively comparable to getting the use of the airspace above London for an hour. Si told us the longest day of the tour was the transit flight from Cyprus to Oman, where they had taken off in the sunrise and landed in the sunset which took the team 3 legs to complete, with the longest leg being 1 hour 40 minutes from Tabuk in Saudi Arabia to Riyadh Saudi Arabia.

One of Si’s favourite display locations is the Scilly Isles he described them as being beautiful and compares them to a Caribbean Island on a sunny day, he also loves the show at Duxford as he really likes the museum they have and this year he is looking forward to being on the ground, meeting fans along with the rest of the team. But one location really stands out to Si this year and that is Scarborough due to him being a Yorkshire man however, one of his main highlights this year will be the Scampton Airshow, describing how he could not wait to see the sleepy base awaken into a hive of activity during the show week.

Si also mentioned how he is looking forward to talking with the USAF Thunderbird’s at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo and how it was insightful talking with the Russian Knights and the Chinese August 1st Display teams during their Asia tour.

Winter training is currently progressing well with the team flying up to 5 sorties a day and are currently up to a 7 ship and hope to have conducted their first full 9 by the start of April before departing to Tanagra Air Base in Greece on Exercise Springhawk, where they will train as a 9 ship for around 4 weeks before gaining Public Display Authority and returning to England at the beginning of June with their first display set to be Torbay.

Alongside the pilots the Red Arrows rely on support staff and engineer’s who demonstrate the excellence and capabilities of the Royal Air Force and the Service’s skilled, talented people which include Mechanical technicians, Avionics technicians, Weapon technicians, Weapon technicians, Logistics, Mechanical Transport, Survival Equipment Fitters and Photographers alongside a dedicated public relation team.

During the display season a select few of the engineering support team get to fly with the team to each display location these are known as the Circus or more commonly the Blues and comprise of 10 engineering technicians who fly in the passenger seat of the Hawk too and from display airfields and service the aircraft before and after every display the 2017 season see’s the circus led by JENGO Flight Lieutenant Alicia (Lissy) Mason taking over from Flight Lieutenant Marcus Ramsden.

The winter training period it is the perfect time for the Red Arrows engineering team to get to work on the teams 15 Hawk T.1a Jets getting them in top condition ready for the long display season ahead. Pictured below you can see a number of engineers working to remove the engine from one of the teams Hawk T.1a aircraft speaking to one of them he said this work could be conducted in a few hours due to the less complex systems of the hawk making it easy to work on however due to the age of these airframe’s they are requiring more and more work to be done to keep them airworthy.


Article by Kurt Fairhurst Assisted by Paul Atkin with thanks to Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows