Bull’s-Eye for Red Arrows in Jeddah
Arab News JEDDAH,
8 November 2007 — Exactly to the second, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display Team, the Red Arrows, burst onto the Jeddah Corniche in a thunderous opening to a 22 minute display of spectacular and disciplined flying yesterday. Having obtained special clearance to fly over the city at low level, the huge crowd spread over three kilometers of the Corniche was mainly looking seaward when the nine scarlet Hawk jets screamed overhead in V formation trailing read, white and blue smoke.
The first nine minutes saw all the aircraft in close formation, maneuvering in a series of rolls, loops and high-speed low-level passes in a breathtaking display of aerobatics. At some times during the display, wing tips were less than two meters apart as the Hawks sped over a calm sea at speed up to 800kph drawing gasps of incredulity from some seasoned pilots watching the display.
“The second part of the display, about 10 minutes, is designed to really excite the crowds,” said Wing Cmdr. Jason Hawker who, as Red 1, led the nine aircraft formation through the first half of the display. “The second half is far more dynamic and involves some very exciting stuff.” The stress on the pilots during the high-speed aerobatics is huge. Pulling eight times the force of gravity, the pilots highlighted the complexity of their maneuvers by trailing smoke which hung in the air in their wake.
The team is made up of front-line fast jet pilots who volunteer for a three-year secondment to the Red Arrows. “We get about 30 a year, short list it to nine and then select three to replace three who then return to other duties,” Hawker told Arab News. “When it gets to the short list, we are hair splitting — the standard is extremely high.” The Red Arrows have displayed in the Kingdom before — most recently in Dhahran. Yesterday, however, was the first time in Jeddah and the team dedicated a special maneuver, the Palm Split, to Jeddah city to celebrate. Approaching the assembled dignitaries at 600kph they pulled up into a vertical climb in tight formation, breaking out at altitude into a nine-leaved palm tree, which drew spontaneous applause from the audience.
The team appeared in the new Red Arrows livery which highlights the Royal Air Force logo on the fuselage. “It’s to emphasize the fact that we are representing the Royal Air Force to the people worldwide who come to see us,” said Hawker. The team leaves for Dubai International Air Show today where they will once more bring the crowds to their feet with some simply extraordinary flying.