Statement from Red 10 – Mike Ling on the cancellation of Newcastle display

An official Statement from the RAF Red Arrows further explaining their cancellation on Saturday in Newcastle, and continued issues on Sunday in Blackpool from Red 10 Mike Ling.
10 August 2015

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Red 10: Full details on a very challenging August weekend

Now that the dust has settled from what has been a manic few days, I can put some meat on the bones of what we had to deal with this weekend.

After 10 days of mid-summer leave (mandatory for fatigue management during a busy summer display season) we are required to perform a nine-ship practice display before we can display in front of the public.

We had two nine-ship practice displays planned on Friday, August 7, at RAF Scampton, ready for a transit to Belfast and the display in Newcastle. Unfortunately, despite best efforts by our engineering staff and for a variety of unrelated technical reasons, we did not have nine aircraft from our fleet, including our spare aircraft, available to complete the practices.

The engineers worked very hard overnight on Friday to produce the nine aircraft ready for the mandatory practice, now re-planned for Saturday morning (August 8) with the plan to then land, refuel and head to Belfast. Lady (Bad) Luck struck again and two aircraft were deemed unserviceable during start-up, again with different technical issues, meaning the nine-ship practice could not take place.

Some more rapid work by the engineers to fix faults, we were able to launch nine jets just after midday. Since Trent Bridge is only four minutes flying time from our base, we were able to conduct the flypast there, for the Ashes Test, before coming back to RAF Scampton to start the practice.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the requirement to complete a practice after a prolonged break does not apply for flypasts, just displays – hence we were able to appear at Trent Bridge.

During the route back from the flypast, one of the aircraft developed a radio malfunction. Unable to hear the other pilots, he had no choice but to land at base. Once again, our nine-ship practice could not take place. Of course, we could have completed an eight-ship practice but that would still not negate the need to complete a nine-ship practice before our next display, which would have had a knock-on effect to the rest of our schedule this week.

Since this practice is a mandatory requirement, we had no choice but to cancel the transit to Belfast and the display at the Newcastle Festival of Flight. No one is more disappointed and frustrated than us – the whole of the Team, both Reds and Blues, when we have to cancel planned events, for whatever reason.

Another busy night shift for the engineers saw nine jets ‘on the line’ on Sunday morning (August 9) and we, at last, were able to complete the nine-ship display practice. That said, there were a couple of minor ‘snags’ reported on landing that would need fixing before the next flight and, due to time constraints, we changed the plan to launch for the Blackpool display – launching from RAF Scampton instead, hence the cancellation of the visit to Hawarden Airport. All looking good for the Blackpool display, I headed off to Blackpool to get ready for the show.

Thirty minutes before the Blackpool display, I took a call from our Junior Engineering Officer to explain that one of the previously-‘snagged’ jets had failed a functional check of one of its avionics components and, given that the instrument in question would likely have to be relied upon due to the forecast weather conditions, that jet would not be able to fly in the Blackpool display. The decision was made to leave Red 9 out of the display and put into action one of our ‘loser plans’, which we brief regularly and practice during training for exactly this eventuality.

The weather at Blackpool meant a flat display in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd and the jets then landed at Liverpool Airport for a refuel before flying home. Liverpool was used instead of Hawarden simply due to opening hours on a Sunday evening – Hawarden shuts at 1700.

We are sorry for the cancellation of the Newcastle display and for the need to fly just an eight-ship display at Blackpool but the events really were out of our control and we were struck with sheer bad luck. In my seven years of experience with the Red Arrows, this has been one of the most challenging weekends I’ve seen. It goes without saying that we do not take any unnecessary risks, with the safety of all concerned our number one priority.

While we do our best to keep everybody updated using various social media channels, sometimes the situation is just so fluid and detailed that it just isn’t possible. All of the updates we can provide will be available via @RAFRed10 and @rafredarrows on Twitter and the RAF Red Arrows page on Facebook.

The Blues now have two engineering days to work on the aircraft for the next ‘push’ that starts on Wednesday, during which we have eight displays and many flypasts planned. I hope we get some better luck with serviceability and with the British weather!

We look forward to the rest of the summer display season and are excited about performing to many millions of people over the coming weeks.

Squadron Leader Mike Ling – Red 10…

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