Having a son who is a big fan of the Red Arrows you can imagine our excitement when we discovered that they would be displaying at Shuttleworth this year. Having promised to take him to see them last summer and being unable to there was no question whether we would be attending The Opening Show. This would be the first time he had actually seen them at an airshow, his interest having been piqued by a chance viewing from a field during a picnic. It is a very special year for the Red Arrows as it is their 50th Anniversary and what better way to start the season than soaring above the quaint village of Old Wardon for the first time in 30 years.
Having trekked past the amazing array of cars, pretty sure the whole of Bedfordshire was there…we had settled on the grass in front of the flight line. In fact we had picked the perfect spot to see the eye watering maneuvers.
Keeping the children entertained at theses types of events is never easy so I for one was glad that we only had an hour to wait until the main event. You could tell by the magnitude of Red Arrows caps (my son being one of the many adorned with one) just how many people had turned out to see these crimson cuties.
As the time of arrival approached Squadron Leader Mike Ling took to the stand to commentate and geared the audience up for a “patriotic display of red, white and blue” from the “Ambassadors of the English Country”.
Having been training abroad this was their first public display of 2016 which will be followed by 78 more in the UK and Western Europe over the season. Mike hinted that they may also be displaying further afield and to “watch this space”.
Unfortunately we were warned there would be no “heart for the ladies” as they have been capped at 3 and half thousand feet but that we would still get to witness a rolling display. And what a display it was! Apart from when a very naughty helicopter pilot invaded into their airspace and the Arrows had to sit to the side as it passed.
The smile on my sons face as the Arrows first soared overhead was incomparable and the joy of seeing them so close just emanated from his very pores. They came in from behind us, sweeping across our upturned heads to wow us with an amazingly acrobatic rolling display. Maneuver after maneuver had every eye staring at the sky. All you could hear were the oohs and ahhs of the crowd and the many clicking cameras attempting to get the perfect shot of our much loved national treasures.
Splitting the display into two parts we were treated to magestic maneuvers by all 9 to start in a lavishly regal display of synchronised aerobatics. The team then split into their two groups Enid (named after Enid Blyton) and Gypo (named for the founder of the Red Arrows Flt Lt Lee ‘Gypo’ Jones) for a more spirited high-powered second half with the Synchro pair (Reds 6 and 7) performing the powerful and magnetic crossovers and opposition maneuvers which were very popular with the crowd.
Many of the maneuvers are in honour of RAF aircraft such as Tornado, Vixen Break and Hawk T2 however today they unveiled their most recent honouring move, the Winkle Rolls in respect to the sadly departed Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown. When Mike stated over the tanoy that the name of the rolls had been changed in respect the crown exploded! The cacophony of clapping and cheering could no doubt be heard for miles around. It was also a poignant moment, tears formed in the eyes of the most hardened in attendance as they thought of the brilliant man that the rolls are now named for.
As always the coloured smoke billowing out in the sky behind them look impressive and elegant as it decorates the sky with the patriotic colours of our Union Jack flag. The red white and blue plumes are an iconic image which is much loved by the British consciousness and revered around the world.
My son was very excited to learn today that there is a possibility that he could have his name on a Red Arrow as part of their ‘Names on a plane’ scheme, a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of the living history of aviation. This campaign will see names adorning the wing of a Red Arrows Hawk Jet which will fly throughout the 2017 season.
The Red Arrows mean so much to the people of England, they encompass the beauty, tradition and elegance of our fantastic nation. Their motto is Eclat which means Brilliance…they certainly lived up to that today.