Ahead of the red arrows’ timely return to cosford air show, coinciding with the platinum jubilee, dan morris looks at the role the team plays in celebrations
One of the county’s most celebrated events is back for the first time since the advent of the pandemic – and it’s bringing with it the stars of the skies.
Missing from the calendar for the last two years, The RAF Cosford Air Show is set to delight all comers once again on Sunday, June 12.
This grand return of an event that has entertained crowds for over four decades will tell a 70-year story of aviation and royalty – proudly showcasing landmark achievements in technology and engineering through its showstopping flying action.
Themed displays tied in to the Jubilee celebrations will pay tribute to the countless accomplishments of Her Majesty The Queen, and are set to ensure that this beloved aerial extravaganza returns with gusto.
Air Show Chairman, Wing Commander Kenny Wickens, said: “We are delighted to announce the return of the RAF Cosford Air Show after two difficult years. A huge amount of work has been done in planning this event to ensure we can provide a safe and enjoyable show for all of our visitors and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to RAF Cosford for a day of celebration and entertainment.”
Exciting demonstrations of piloting skill have been the cornerstone of the RAF Cosford Air Show since its inception, and, indeed, it would be a travesty were this year’s event not to feature a display from that most famous team of flying aces, the Red Arrows.
Leading the charge at Cosford this year as they have done many times before, the Red Arrows – officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – were formed in late 1964.
For the majority of Her Majesty’s reign, the iconic team has been internationally synonymous with aviation spectacle – its daring pilots captivating audiences around the world with their coordinated stunts and incredible skill.
Since 1966, the team has had nine display pilots each year. Before RAF pilots are eligible to join the Red Arrows, they must have completed one or more operational tours on a frontline aircraft such as the advanced Typhoon. They must also have accumulated at least 1,500 flying hours, and have been assessed as above average in their operational role.
As well as the nine pilots, the Red Arrows are joined by ‘Red 10’ – the team supervisor and display commentator. And just in time for the team’s 2022 season – which begins shortly before Cosford – a new occupant has stepped into the role.
Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat succeeded Wing Commander Adam Collins as Red 10 in April, and as such will be the voice that talks the enamoured crowds through the Red Arrows’ demonstrations this summer.
Sqn Ldr Muscat, who flew the Tornado GR4 on the frontline earlier in his RAF career, said: “The Red Arrows are the best at what they do, they are a UK icon and are one of notable facets that stand out when you think of Britain.
“Being part of this fantastic organisation is a boyhood dream and one which I can hopefully use to provide that inspiration to young people and also be an ambassador for the UK, both at home and abroad.”
Before officially ascending to the post, Sqn Ldr Muscat spent time learning about the various aspects of the Red 10 role from his predecessor.
“The handover has been very thorough, as expected, coming from Wg Cdr Collins, covering a wide range of areas from the display supervision right down into liaising with the various safety and regulatory agencies as well as RAF senior officers,” he said.
One of the key tasks for Red 10 is to be in place at an event location well in advance of the team’s planned performance time and arrival of the other Red Arrows, and this will be the case at Cosford this year.
From a position on the ground, the supervisor checks for potential hazards and – during the Red Arrows’ show – maintains radio contact with Red 1, the Team Leader, and the formation flying above.
Red 10 is at every event, meeting countless people as well as commentating to millions each year.
Sqn Ldr Muscat said: “Being Red 10, the team supervisor, not only puts you at the forefront of ensuring the team’s operations are safe and fit to display but also allows you to engage directly with the public – helping to influence and inspire those I will meet at the various displays.
It’s very much part of why I was interested in the role.”
In addition to being the supervisor for all practices and displays plus commentating at shows, Red 10 coordinates the season and flies the team’s photographers – being responsible for many of the Red Arrows’ striking, widely-shared images from across the globe.
Wg Cdr Collins said photo-chasing – flying alongside or above the main formation of jets to get the pictures – is one of the most exciting parts of his former role.
The images we produce can be very powerful, especially given the team’s online presence,” he said. “Capturing a stunning picture is a real team effort between the photographer and pilot, balancing achieving the desired image with safety, our number one priority.”
As a Squadron Leader, Wg Cdr Collins’ first season as Red 10 was in 2018.
The former Tornado pilot, who is originally from the West Midlands, said: “Being Red 10 has been a unique opportunity and a real career highlight.
“It’s the international engagement and being an ambassador for the UK that has stood out for me.”
Before the Red Arrows take to the skies at Cosford, the team will be kicking their display season off at the Midlands Air Festival in Alcester, Warwickshire, giving a Jubilee salute to Her Majesty from June 2-4.
Later in the summer, keen fans of the Arrows can enjoy further daring spectacle from the team at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire, from July 15-17.
For more information on the RAF Cosford Air Show, visit www.cosfordairshow.co.uk
To find out more about the Red Arrows, go to www.raf.mod.uk/display-teams/red-arrows/