The government and the MoD could just be paying lip service to Lincolnshire in their hopes to keep the Red Arrows in the county, but we still have a one in three chance to retain them.
That’s according to Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, former chief of air staff, who now lives in Lincolnshire.
He reacted to the news that RAF Waddington has been shortlisted alongside RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Wittering near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, as the three possible locations for the home of the Red Arrows once RAF Scampton is closed by 2022, according to a letter to Lincoln MP Karen Lee from Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for Defence.
“I share the views with everybody in Lincolnshire — we’d like to keep the Red Arrows, but Waddington was a great surprise when I heard yesterday that it was on the list of three for homing the Red Arrows in the future,” Sir Michael said in a BBC Radio Lincolnshire interview on Tuesday morning.
“Whether [the minister is] serious, but if you are a little cynical […], this might be a little bit of appeasing to a number of our MPs who made noises about retaining the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire.
“[This is] because RAF Waddington is crammed full of people and equipment, it’s an operation base and that operation has priority over the Red Arrows at any time.
“I think there’ll be a lot of difficulties in putting the Red Arrows in there, and the other two airfields [RAF Leeming and RAF Wittering] look a lot more sensible in terms of their availability and the ease with which the Red Arrows could be fitted into them.
“[RAF Waddington] could be [the site of the Red Arrows] but I would be surprised. At the accommodation at Waddington there is very little spare. In fact, people are having to find accommodation quite a long way away from the station, and there’s a lot of people to house for the Red Arrows — all the engineers and the aircrew.
“Although they would be hoping under those circumstances to practice over Scampton for a while, I can’t see that that would necessarily be a long-term solution, because if they’re going to sell off Scampton, then whoever buys it may not be too keen to have the Red Arrows going over their head at 50ft.
“Both [RAF Leeming and RAF Wittering] have some practical problems. Accommodation wise they could do it quite easily, but they’re both very close to the A1 […] and the idea of the Red Arrows flashing across there at 50ft gives me a certain worry. The same at Leeming, which is also very close to the A1 going north, so there are some practical difficulties.
“I think they could probably be overcome, but they might inhibit the training. So both of them are not perfect, but accommodation is relatively straight forward there and they could absorb them. I would’ve thought that they offer a better prospect than Waddington from that point of view, however, I personally would be delighted to see them stay in Lincolnshire, and if it can be done, good!”
When asked about the odds of Waddington becoming the new home of the Red Arrows, Sir Michael said “I think Waddington would come in third on my list.”
Lincoln MP Karen Lee commented on Sir Michael’s statements saying: “It’s my job to stand up and fight for Lincoln, but at the end of the day, it’s the MoD and the government that need to listen to us. But hey, we’ve got a one in three chance of getting them. We’re Bomber County — give us some respect for that and let’s keep our Red Arrows!”
Detailed studies for suitability of each base will now be carried out, the government said.
Sign the petition to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire
Visit Lincoln and The Lincolnite have been running an official petition to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire once RAF Scampton closes. It has now over 5,300 signatures, just over half the number needed to get the government to respond.