Red Arrows get ready for biggest-ever North America tour

The RAF Red Arrows are preparing to fly out for their biggest-ever tour to North America next month.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team leave for Canada and the United States in just over two weeks in what is its 55th season. They are expected to depart the United Kingdom on August 5.

The Red Arrows will visit 25 cities in North America across the 11-week deployment. It’ll be the first tour in the area since 2008 – aiming to promote the best of British and supporting trade, business and defence interests.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The team’s Hawk jets cannot refuel in the air and do not have the range to make the transatlantic crossing in one sortie. They will be flown via several stops, including Scotland, Iceland and Greenland, to reach Halifax in Canada – the first major location of the tour.

However, before they head out, the Red Arrows’ final displays of its domestic campaign will be staged at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in Gloucestershire this weekend.

Some of the Red Arrows team standing proudly at RAF Scampton. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Aerobatic displays and stopovers

The tour comprises a combination of nearly 20 aerobatic displays, several iconic flypasts and 100 separate ground engagement activities.

The first public flypast will be in Halifax on August 11 followed by an aerobatic display in Gatineau two days later.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Chicago will provide the setting for the first US airshow of the tour on August 17.

Miramar Airshow near San Diego, California, is a new addition to those airshows three the Red Arrows will display during the deployment.

Other stops planned by Red Arrows including Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, cities in Texas, and also places never previously visited by the team in its history such as Vancouver and Seattle.

North American Tour 2019 map. Photo: Red Arrows

‘An even grander scale’

Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Team Leader and Red 1 for the Red Arrows. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Team Leader and Red 1 for the Red Arrows, told The Lincolnite: “These tours are hugely important. The Red Arrows are well versed and well exercised in these tours because we do about two tours in every three years, but this is an even grander scale.

“We’re supporting the department of international trade, trying to promote and celebrate the investment that we’ve conducted with the UK, the US and Canada. That alone was worth £208 billion just back in 2018.

“As you can imagine the preparations to go that far away from home with all of the logistical equipment that we need, and getting so many people out there, is huge. So we’ve been planning for this for well over a year or so.

“We’ve already sent equipment across the pond in ISO containers to pre-deploy at some of the 25 locations that we’re aiming to display at, so you can imagine the cogs that have been turning in the background just getting that in motion.”

Flight Lieutenant Dan Lowes. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Wing Commander Andrew Keith RAF. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Highlight of career

Flight Lieutenant Gregor Ogston, Red 4. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Flight Lieutenant Gregor Ogston, Red 4, who is in his first season with the team, added: “To be doing our biggest tour to America that we’ve ever conducted and going back there for the first time in 11 years, I’m really lucky to be doing that in my first season on the team. It’s going to be a real highlight of my whole time with the Red Arrows.

“We’re very much looking forward to going out there and putting the red, white and blue of the British flag over iconic places.”

Flight Lieutenant Jon Bond. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Behind the scenes

SAC(T) Jamie Stringer, Cpl Paul Scottney and Avionics Technician/Circus 7 Lydia Ford. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Just over 100 staff, including the pilots and technicians, will be part of the tour.

Lydia Ford, Avionics Technician, Circus 7 said she’ll primarily be looking after the aircraft, servicing them when they land, refuelling and sorting out any problems.

She said: “I’m really excited. I think for everyone on the team this is what we want to do when we come on to the Red Arrows, being on circus, especially going away to America and it’s a huge tour and a huge privilege, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“We know we’ve got a hard few months coming up and it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be very busy and very high tempo, but that definitely adds to the excitement.”

Some of the Red Arrows team who will be flying out on tour to North America. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

RAF Scampton

RAF Scampton. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence previously said a decision on the future home of the Red Arrows will be made by the end of 2020.

Three sites were identified as potentially suitable future locations – RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

A joint petition by Visit Lincoln and The Lincolnite currently has over 11,300 signatures, but is due to end on July 28.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert said: “The Red Arrows think exactly the same as probably everyone else does. We’re going to have to move, that decision has been made that Scampton is closing, and now we’re just looking forward to providing the best location for the Red Arrows in the future.”