Red Arrows to fly as seven after pilot deaths

Adam Parris-Long

The Red Arrows is set to fly in a new seven formation for the first time when the crew begins annual training in Cyprus this week.

The Royal Air Force team confirmed it would not be training in its traditional nine formation when it headed out today for RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus.

The move comes after the deaths of two pilots last year and the re-assignment to a ground-based role of Kirsty Stewart, the first female Red Arrows pilot.

Flt Lt Jon Egging crashed near Bournemouth Airport on 20 August last year and fellow Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham died just three months later when his ejector seat malfunctioned while he was on the runway at RAF Scampton.

Red Arrows squadron leader Jim Turner said that putting on flight suits this year would have “added significance for all of us . . . with everything that has happened to the team over the past few months”.

An MOD spokesman said: “The Red Arrows will conduct aerobatic displays with seven aircraft rather than the usual nine in 2012 due to the unavoidable posting of one of their pilots.

"With safety paramount — but the quality of the displays vitally important — it has been decided that seven aircraft presents the most visually-balanced and dynamic formation.”

However, the team will continue to carry out official flypasts with nine aircraft, including its display at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Footage of the Red Arrows in action