As we prepare for the visit of the Red Arrows, who will provide a thrilling climax to the inauguaral Islands' Regatta on Bank Holiday Monday, we find out more about them.

(All pictures supplied by The Royal Air Force Aerobatic team)

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, is the public face of the Royal Air Force and represents the United Kingdom both at home and overseas.


Each year the Royal Air Force asks for volunteers from suitably qualified pilots. To be eligible, applicants must have completed at least one operational tour on a fast jet such as the Typhoon, Tornado, Harrier and Jaguar. Pilots must also have been assessed in their annual reports as being above average in their operational role.

Normally each of the display pilots stays with the team for a three-year tour of duty. By changing three pilots each year the experience level within the team is optimised: three first year pilots; three second year pilots; and three in their final year.

With a trademark combination of close formation flying and dynamic loops and rolls, the team has been displaying since 1965.

Through these precision displays, the Red Arrows aim to showcase the professional excellence of the Royal Air Force, represent the nation at home and overseas and help to promote British industry – supporting the prosperity of the United Kingdom.

The team’s BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft feature a Union flag-inspired tail fin design – a livery that highlights the Red Arrows’ remit as national ambassadors. In addition to this role, the Red Arrows also assist recruitment into the Armed Forces, promote the excellence of the Royal Air Force and carry out defence diplomacy.

The Squadron is commanded by Wing Commander Martin Higgins (left) and the nine-aircraft aerobatic display team is led by Red 1, Squadron Leader David Montenegro (right).

Martin, 44, who joined the RAF in 1993, studied for a degree in aeronautics and astronautics at Southampton University, where he became a member of the University Air Squadron. He has also completed two operational tours in Iraq.

He was selected to be a Red Arrows pilot from 2004 to 2007, initially as Red 3 and then as Red 9 for his remaining time on the team. He rejoined the team as Red 5 for the 2012 season and was subsequently promoted into another staff tour in January 2013. In September 2014, Martin returned as Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

David was educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich, where he was a member of the Combined Cadet Force and awarded an RAF Flying Scholarship in his final year.


He joined the RAF in 1999 and in 2009 was selected to join the Red Arrows, his three years in the team culminating in the role of Synchro Leader. He re-joined as Red 1 in late 2014 and this is his second display season as Team Leader.

Known as the Blues because of the colour of their display coveralls, the team’s 110-strong ground crew include skilled engineers, drivers, suppliers and other personnel with either existing frontline experience or who will go on to complete operations after leaving the Red Arrows.

Based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, the Red Arrows had completed more than 4,700 displays, in 56 countries, by the start of 2016 – the team’s 52nd season.

The Red Arrows will be performing at the inauguaral Isles of Scilly Regatta at 3:00pm on Monday, 29th August. The full display is 24 minutes in duration, featuring a first half of synchronised formation aerobatics followed by a more dynamic second half. More information on the flying sequences is available here.

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