Connecting with the Red Arrows

1 July 2019

I was part of a group of Arkwright Engineering Scholars who visited RAF Scampton — home of the Red Arrows.

The day kicked-off with a talk from one of the Engineering Officers. Before joining the RAF, he had worked for a civilian company and was able to give us an insight into the contrast between working for the armed forces and a corporate organisation.

We were then given a tour by a Circus member (a Red Arrow Engineer). We had the chance to see a cockpit up close, and discover more about the engineering behind the Hawk. We learnt about the ejector button – you can only eject twice in your life as the compression on your body is too great – and how the dye-tank works to create the distinctive red, white and blue smoke that their air displays are famous for.

Life as a Red Arrow involves intensive training. They train in the UK over winter, before travelling to Greece to perfect their routine for pre-season training known as Exercise Springhawk! This allows them to prepare for the PDA (Public Display Authority), who’s approval they need to display this season.

Unfortunately, the weather prevented any formation training while we were there; they were scheduled to start training with full colour smoke. However, we still got to see them perform individually. They must carry out certain exercises, like flying through cloud, regularly to ensure they are ‘current’. One of the highlights was watching the ‘shakedowns’, where pilots took new Circus members up to experience the twists and turns of flying a Hawk.

This was truly an amazing experience as we not only got to see a Hawk T1 up close but a Red Arrow, which is a once in a lifetime experience.