The Red Arrows have just been granted Public Display Authority for the 2017 air display season and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this year!
In the run up to the season we wanted to find out all things Red Arrows from the team themselves and Flight Lieutenant Emmet Cox, aka. Red 9, was only too happy to give us an exclusive interview. Currently in his third year on the team, Red 9, has told us how to become a Red Arrows pilot and what it’s really like to be part of the world renowned Red Arrows…
What qualities/skills does a Red Arrow pilot have that are different to a regular RAF fast jet pilot?
“The Red Arrows look for the same qualities as the Royal Air Force when first selecting their pilots; motivated, reliable individuals who are team players, trustworthy with good hand-eye coordination. All Red Arrows pilots have previously been fast jet pilots on the frontline and to be eligible for selection they require 1,500 hours of fast-jet flying experience, as well as being assessed as above average in their flying role. A good degree of self criticalness and the ability to think on your feet is essential.”
“it is definitely nothing like Top Gun”
Are there (in your opinion) any common misconceptions that come with being a Red Arrows air display pilot?
“Well it is definitely nothing like Top Gun, and it is far from glamorous at times. But we do have the opportunities to get involved with some terrific organisations and events that as a frontline fast jet pilot would never come your way. Another common assumption is that we rely on some piece of technology or autopilot to maintain the shapes we fly, but all that is used is a bit of hand and eye coordination and a lot of practice.”
Do you have any nicknames that you call each other (when not using each other’s numbers)?
“Yes, most of us have some sort of nickname, most have been picked up along the way through training in the RAF and our time on frontline Squadrons. Largely they are unimaginative, just put the letter Y on the end of anyone’s surname and you won’t be far off. There is definitely no one named Maverick, Hollywood or Goose!”
“the difference between a well flown and a poorly flown manoeuvre is tiny”
Which is the most physically demanding or scariest part of the display to perform?
“For new team pilots, it is definitely the Rollbacks. This is the last manoeuvre learnt in winter training and is the most dynamic, the difference between a well flown and a poorly flown manoeuvre is tiny. As you progress in the team you move position and some of the manoeuvres flown in the second half of the show by the Synchro Pair and the rear part of the formation are very demanding and can involve high amounts of G forces.”
How many times do you perform the display during the year?
“It varies from year-to-year but about 80 shows is normal. In addition, we also do numerous flypasts while transiting from one location to another and some dedicated flypast sorties like that for Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday celebrations or the rugby world cup final. Occasionally, after the UK season has finished, we conduct a tour further afield to places like the Middle East, Asia or the Americas to represent the country. This could make the total number of displays go well in to the hundreds.”
How long do you think the Hawk T1 will continue as your display aircraft and are there any plans towards its replacement?
“The Hawk T1 is in service with the Red Arrows for the foreseeable future. The Hawk T1’s nimble and manoeuvrable, yet forgiving, handling characteristics made it perfect in its original role of training new fast-jet pilots. These qualities, along with its high reliability, also make it great for our displays.”
“representing the very best of British values”
Why do you think the Red Arrows are so important as the face of the RAF and as a representative of the UK abroad?
“We take our role as ambassadors very seriously. The nature of what we do make us an effective soft diplomacy tool, both on the ground and in the air. We have a far reach and have the ability to effectively place the national flag overhead in any location all the while representing the very best of British values.”
As you can tell the Red Arrow pilots hold a lot of responsibility both as the face of the RAF and as ambassadors for the UK.
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