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The Chairman’s Chat

Wg Cgr Andrew Keith – OC RAFAT.

Dear RAA members,

 

As you will be aware, most of 2018 was dominated by the tragic crash of XX204 at RAF Valley.  The Team was deeply impacted by the loss of one of our engineers, Cpl Jonathan Bayliss, but showing real grit, teamwork and determination, we achieved Public Display Authority (PDA) on time and went on to deliver an incredibly successful 2018 season and played our part in the RAF100 celebrations.  JB’s memory will always live on amongst the Team and the Red Arrows bar is now named ‘J.B’s’ in his memory.  RAF Valley also recently named their new Welfare Hub after JB.  A small ceremony was delivered by the Stn Cdr outside the Welfare facility with family members, RAF Valley staff and RAFAT members.

As always, last year’s summer season flew by and before we knew it, we were back into winter training.  This saw the departure of our third-year pilots, which included Flt Lt Matt Masters, Flt Lt Si Taylor and Flt Lt Mike Bowden. Ironically all three left the service and all went on to take up positions flying with TUI Airways.  Joining the team were first-years Flt Lt Damo Green as Red 2, Flt Lt Dave Simmonds as Red 3 and Flt Lt Gregor Ogston as Red 4.  Sqn Ldr Steve Morris also re-joined the Team from RAF Valley to take over from Flt Lt Stark due to his ongoing rehabilitation post the accident.  Quite a turbulent year with regards to personnel but it wasn’t to stop there!  In the New Year, first-year Flt Lt Simmonds suffered a severe sporting injury and it soon became apparent that he would not participate in the 2019 season.  As you will undoubtably have heard, TUI Airways were gracious enough to lend us back their newly appointed first officer – Mike Bowden.  We duly promoted Mike to FTRS Sqn Ldr and he picked up the Red 3 position very quickly getting us back on track for the winter work-up.

PDA went incredibly well with Team Leader, Martin Pert, delivering another visually impressive and dynamic display.  The summer season kicked off in Torbay on the 1 Jun 19 with great weather, but unfortunately this didn’t last for day 2 and some of our events since.  We were particularly proud to participate in the Portsmouth events commemorating D-Day, including a Normandy flypast.  With a very short UK season, due to the Nth America tour, we hope the sun shines on us favourably for the rest of the season.  Our last display in the UK will be at the RIAT on the 21st July.  Regarding the Nth America tour, this is now shaping up to be a tremendous event showcasing the Best of British from east to west, including Toronto, Ottawa, New York, Atlantic City, St Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Vancouver, to name a few!

I would also like to take this opportunity to say how pleased I am that the annual RAA AGM will be held at RAF Scampton once again this year.  Last year’s event was such a success I was keen to build on that foundation to hopefully make the event even bigger and better.  The annual programme has been against us due to the limited window of opportunity but my thanks to Fg Off Dawes and Fg Off Hughes who project managed the event on my behalf. Fingers crossed for BBQ weather and a fine display from arguably the world’s best display team!

On behalf of all the members of the RAFAT, all the very best for a safe and successful 2019 and we look forward to catching up throughout the year.

For the latest news on the Team, please access the MoD Red Arrows website: www.raf.mod.uk/reds, or follow us on Twitter: @rafredarrows
Kind regards,

Wg Cdr Andrew (Boomer) Keith

 

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