RAF Red Arrows In Mumbai

The first-ever display of aerobatics team of Royal Air Force stunned everyone at Air Force Academy

The high-pitched whine of Rolls Royce engines in the nine BAE Systems, dual-control Hawk T 1 aircraft of the Red Arrows, the aerobatics team of the Royal Air Force, filled the air on Thursday.

But what was equally loud was the squeals of joy from children and the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Wows’ from the adults too. That was the scene at the first-ever display of the elite Red Arrows in the vast expanse of the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Dundigal near here.

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“This is one of our longest tours that will end on December 1 when we touch down at Scampton Base back home. In all, we have had 18 displays and landed in 17 countries from September 1,” said 39-year-old Squadron Leader David Montenegro, who is into his second year as leader of the formation as Red One. He has flown earlier as a team member for three years.

Even people who have earlier had the joy of seeing the Suryakirans of the Indian Air Force (Indian name for the originally British-built Hawks) shook their heads in admiration at the aerobatics by the Red Arrows. “I am glad that India now manufactures the Hawks with its very own name Suryakiran and has built about a 100 of them,” said the team leader, interacting with AFA Commandant G.P. Singh later.

The metal birds flew at a speed of Mach 1.2 as the twin-shaft turbofan engines took them to a thrust of 5,200 pounds and at as low a height as 100 metres. There were breath-taking moments in the almost 50-minute display when Red Ten, Wing Commander Mike Ling, took the audience on a detailed presentation of the intricate manoeuvres of the Hawks in the sky, sometimes with the distance between the wings of two aircraft being just six feet. Some of the aerobatic moves with which the Red Arrows thrilled the crowd included the ‘Wall to Short Diamond Arrival’, ‘Shuttle Roll’, ‘Hammerhead Break’ that sees the aircraft peeling off in different directions before coming together, ‘Tornado’, ‘Typhoon’ and ‘Apollo’.

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Earlier, as the Hawks prepared for flight, instructors at the AFA – squadron leaders Sidhesh Karthik and Ankush Tomar – flew the Pilatus PC 7 MK-II aircraft in sorties of 20 minutes duration each. Sidhesh Karthik modestly admitted that he was yet to graduate to the Suryakirans and that the British pilots were excellent. “After all, I did not have to fly in formation but only solo right,” he quipped.

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The team’s next #RedArrowsTour display will be in #Muscat, #Oman, at Shatti Al Qurm near the Intercontinental Hotel on Sunday at 1500.

The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Scampton. The team was formed in late 1964 as an all-RAF team, replacing a number of unofficial teams that had been sponsored by RAF commands.

The Red Arrows badge shows the aircraft in their trademark diamond nine formation, with the motto Éclat, a French word meaning “brilliance” or “excellence”.

Initially, they were equipped with seven Folland Gnat trainers inherited from the RAF Yellowjacks display team. This aircraft was chosen because it was less expensive to operate than front-line fighters. In their first season, they flew at 65 shows across Europe. In 1966, the team was increased to nine members, enabling them to develop their Diamond Nine formation. In late 1979, they switched to the BAE Hawk trainer. The Red Arrows have performed over 4,700 displays in 56 countries worldwide