Royal Air Force aerobatic team the Red Arrows arrived in Cyprus yesterday for their 50th display season consisting of 85 shows planned in nine different countries.
Speaking to the Cyprus Daily, Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) spokesman Kristian Grey confirmed the world-renowned stunt pilots and their engineers landed in their trademark red jets at RAF Akrotiri, where they will be based for the next two months as they practice their display ahead of the milestone 2014 season.
“The team will be spending the next eight weeks training at the Royal Air Force Base in Akrotiri. They’re scheduled to put on a display show in Cyprus the date for which will be announced soon depending on weather conditions and other circumstances.”
The annual training at the base is known as Exercise Springhawk and sees the team fly three times a day, five days a week, to perfect their performance.
According to Squadron Leader Jim Turner - Team Leader of the Red Arrows - Cyprus’ geographical location guarantees good weather which is essential to enable the pilots to practice hard and attain the necessary approval from senior RAF officers before they display in front of the public – known as Public Display Authority (PDA).
“We’re based at RAF Akrotiri on a peninsula so you’re surrounded by the ocean on three different headings.”
The squadron leader said the team is planning to take full advantage of the good weather on offer to polish their display standards.
“You have got fantastic different display sites too that give you different weather conditions during the day,” said Turner. “This allows us to fly in good weather and really get the show as polished as it needs to be.”
To reach Cyprus the Red Arrows flew through France, Italy and Greece. As the jets can fly for approximately one hour and 40 minutes before requiring refuelling, depending on the height, altitude and weather conditions, several stops were required before the team arrived. The Arrows have been visiting Akrotiri for pre-season training since 1979.
The team are accompanied by key members of the squadron to enable them to operate normally out of a host station. Once attaining PDA, the Red Arrows will return to the UK to carry out their first display at Falmouth on May 31.
This year is the Red Arrows’ 50th display season and to celebrate the occasion the team’s fleet of jets has received a new look - a Union flag design on the tailfins of each of the Hawk aircraft, marking the biggest change to the livery of the jets in the Team’s history.
The Team consists of nine display pilots, all of whom are from frontline squadrons and are experienced officers in the RAF. Each has previously operated other fast jets, such as the Tornado or the Typhoon multi-role combat aircraft. There is 120 support staff in the Red Arrows, including operations and flight planners, engineering technicians, photographers, safety equipment experts, drivers, a public relations department, suppliers and administrators.
Flying in the back seats of the Hawks to Cyprus were members of the Circus – the RAF engineers who were specially selected from the Squadron to accompany the Red Arrows pilots throughout the training and display season.