To commemorate, Liberti talked to Squadron Leader Ruth Shackleton.
For those of you who have seen the Royal Airforce Aerobatics Team aka the Red Arrows, you would have no doubt been entertained by their spectacular air show that leaves you holding your breath as they fly in close formation. This year marks 50 years since their first exciting air display.
In 1964 the Royal Air Force amalgamated its display team into one premier unit – the Red Arrows. The team represents the United Kingdom and the values of the Royal Air Force. It is the Royal Air Force’s public face as every display shows how talented, motivated and precise the team are.
In the first season of 1965, the team – flying seven aircraft in a display and based at RAF Fairford – performed 65 shows. Their first aircraft flown was the Gnat, which had been used by the Yellowiacks. The first official display was at a media event at RAF Little Rissington on May 6th, with the first public performance in the UK taking place on May 15 at Biggin Hill Air Fair.
The team permanently increased to a nine display aircraft group in 1968 and the “Diamond Nine” became the Red Arrows’ trademark formation. The BAE Systems Hawk, a modified version of the RAF’s fast jet and weapons trainer for the 1980 season, replaced the Gnat that had flown 1,292 displays. Permission was also given that year for the team to have the motto “Eclat”, meaning excellence.
RAF Scampton, the station famous for its role in the 1943 Dambusters raid, became the team’s new home in 1983, moving from RAF Kemble that had been its base since 1966. Apart from a period at RAF College Cranwell between 1995 and 2000, the Lincolnshire station has been the Red Arrows’ permanent home ever since.
During the team’s world tour from October 1995 to February 1996, the Red Arrows performed to nearly a million people in Sydney on Australia Day. In 2002, the Red Arrows flew with a British Airways Concorde over London to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. A decade later, the Red Arrows performed another series of fly-pasts over the capital for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (seen by a global television audience in excess of one billion people) and the Athlete’s Parade. The 4,500th Red Arrows display took place at the RAF Waddington International Air Show in July 2013 – in the Team’s 49th season.
What many people do not realise though is that the team is made up of 120 people including pilots, engineers and essential support staff. Behind each show is a large dedicated team. Squadron Leader Ruth Shackleton, who began her career as a flight attendant with Saudi Arabian Airlines, is the team manager for the Red Arrows. She has been in the RAF for 15 years.
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