The Blues are the support team of the Red Arrows. They provide engineering such as essential routine maintenance and daily servicing for the Team’s Hawk aircraft, as well as many other ancillary services. There are approximately 100 Blues. Included in their number are engineers, administrators, flight operations staff, photographers, drivers, logisticians and survival equipment fitters.
Before the display pilots can fly their aircraft for a display, the Blues will ensure that they have the correct amount of fuel (they don’t always fly with a full tank to reduce fatigue), conduct pre-flight checks and also clean excess dirt and oil off the aircraft so that they are looking their very best. We also have a dedicated ‘Dye Team’ who refuel the smoke pods (attached to the bottom of the fuselage) with diesel and red and blue dye, so that the Team can deploy their signature Red, White and Blue smoke.
The Red Arrows’ home base is RAF Scampton. Throughout the winter training season, the aircraft fly from here, but after March we are not seen so often in the skies over Lincoln. From March to May, the squadron deploys to RAF Akrotiri, in Cyprus, to take full advantage of the good weather to practise the full display routines.
When we return in May, the airshow season is already in full swing and the aircraft will base themselves at a choice of several airfields depending on their display commitments. For example, if we are doing displays in the Southampton area, the aircraft will be deployed to Bournemouth Airport, along with all the engineering staff required to support them.
The Circus Team travel with the pilots in the aircraft to all the airshow locations. They are a specifically chosen group of engineers, with a wide range of expertise, and they are expected to deal with any issues the aircraft have whilst away from RAF Scampton. Becoming a member of the Circus Team is very prestigious and is therefore highly sought after. The other Blues, unfortunately, have to travel by road to the operating airfield in our fleet of vehicles, taking with them any spares which may be required.
The Red Arrows is the only RAF squadron operating the Hawk that still uses military engineering personnel, so the only way to become an RAF engineer for the Hawk is join the Red Arrows. Piece of cake! If you would like to know more about the team visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds. To find out more about becoming a Red Arrows Engineer, visit www.raf.mod.uk/careers