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The Chairman’s Chat

By Wg Cdr David Montenegro

To all members of the Red Arrows Association

I do hope this note finds you well and able to have some semblance of relaxation, comfort and joy over the Christmas period.

OC RAFAT & Association Chairman

In every regard it’s been quite a year. I’m pleased to say that we managed to continue flying operations at Scampton to the very end of the working year – this in itself has been quite an achievement. I am incredibly proud of every Blue, Red and contractor we have working for us, and indeed all the support offered to us at RAF Scampton. At one point in November, with all but one of the air traffic controllers in isolation, an individual controller managed to stag on by himself for two weeks in order to keep us airborne. A small example of some of the challenges that have been overcome. 

Aside from COVID, this year has been very much about ‘change’. For the first time since the Team’s inception, we have now moved away from the familiar wrap of the Central Flying School and we’re now parented by No 1 Group, Strike Command in previous parlance. The premise for this move is down to the management and governance structure of Hawk TMk1: ultimately, the Service seeks to unify the decision making for safely continuing an ageing platform. This change has made a positive impact on engineering issues already, but also has some nuances attached, which need to be carefully managed as we venture into next year.

Since my last report, I am delighted to say that every task that was placed in front of us this year has been achieved. With only a handful of displays surviving the cull, the program was light, but needed careful planning to keep us safe. Tasked to support UK interests in Finland in mid-August, we underwent over 70 COVID tests in one week in order to meet the entry requirements of our host nation. Passing this test with flying colours, we staged through Denmark and spent 4 days in Kauhava Air Force Base, Finland. A full weekend of display flying complimented the UK drive to export Typhoon fighters to the country. Air Commodore Northover will know the intricacies of this project!

In October we said farewell to Sqn Ldr Martin Pert, who delivered an exemplary 3 years as Red 1, Team Leader. He faced every challenge that can be thrown into the melting pot of Red 1: tragedy; international tours; and indeed, a global pandemic. His leadership safely accomplished the largest North America tour to date. An astonishing 2 Billion people were reached by live and social media means during this tour, helping to reawaken our north American partners to the value and excitement that the Red Arrows continue to bring to bear.  Perty has been replaced by Sqn Ldr Tom Bould. His challenge vast – to train the Team during the present circumstances and lead the Team into the most adventurous year for some time.

Next year there are three main objectives placed upon the Team. First, support the UK regional economies by flying as many displays and flypasts as we can during the Summer months. A year without air events means that next year will be extra special. Second, to help the government in its post-Brexit voyage by engaging with key European nations in various guises. Third, launch the Team on the largest global tour seen in over 30 years by flying 12 jets from RAF Scampton, across the Indo-Pacific and into Australia. I must add, the tour is awaiting sign-off at ministerial level and is not yet confirmed, but we hope to hear news very soon. If we are committed, then we’ll aim to leave in October 2021, and display in the Middle East, throughout Asia and make our destination, the Avalon Air Show in Melbourne. Aside from our national objectives, we will also help celebrate the Australian Air Force’s centenary year.

Beyond 2021, we’re already planning for the move from RAF Scampton to Waddington. Our present assumption is that we’ll move by the end of 2022, but as ever, there are many factors to still resolve before we are ready go. I will keep you posted.

So, big plans for next year, yet so many issues to overcome. In the meantime, we will take each one as it comes. When the world spins normally again, we will consider how we may be able to support an Association engagement at Scampton.

On behalf of all the present Team members, I wish you the very best of wishes during this festive break, and do hope you stay safe in the New Year – a time that will encompass further challenges, but with some light at the end of the tunnel.   

Monty

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