University Officer Cadets visit Red Arrows


By OCdt Phil Morris, Manchester and Salford Universities Air Squadron

This March, 14 Officer Cadets from Manchester and Salford Universities Air Squadron (MASUAS) were invited to the home of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows, for an engineering tour of the Hawk T.1 aircraft at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

However, we in fact got a lot more than we bargained for!

Our day started at RAF Woodvale, Merseyside; the home of MASUAS. At 0530, we started our long 3.5 hour drive across the country to RAF Scampton, arriving at approximately 0900. Upon arrival, we found out that the Red Arrows (who were meant to be at RAF Valley) were in fact still present at RAF Scampton (the nine red aircraft out on the hard standing was a slight giveaway!).IMG_0259

So, with everybody now a lot more excited and enthusiastic about the trip, we were invited to the Red Arrows’ crew room for tea and coffee. Here, our Adjutant and one of our APO’s discovered the wonders of the Reds’ big red massage chair…

Next, we were invited into the Reds’ briefing room by Red 6 for an info presentation on who the Red Arrows are, the Circus (the engineer specifically assigned to each aircraft and pilot), the pilot selection process, the intense training the Reds have to do, and finally the aircraft they fly – the Hawk T.1.

After this amazing presentation, we were quickly ushered out of the briefing room so the Reds could begin the day’s met brief. While they were being briefed, we had the opportunity to receive the Hawk T.1 engineering tour we had originally come for, delivered by two members of the 2016 Circus. We were talked through everything in depth from the avionic systems to the engines to the dye/diesel mix pods which make the pretty red, white and blue smoke you often see at displays. An interesting point brought up by one of our tour guides was that every 10ml of dye used for this purpose costs £350. He also mentioned that he had had an unfortunate incident with some of the blue dye in the past and it takes a LONG time to wash out of your skin! The aircraft we looked at was undergoing what was termed a ‘minor service’. We were very surprised to find out that a ‘minor service’ of a Hawk lasts around 6 months! Major or ‘deep’ services last even longer.

IMG_0213In what was a quick turnaround, we were ushered back into the briefing room to hear the Red Arrows’ pre-training sortie briefing. This was led by Red 1 (an ex MASUAS member!), who systematically went through each manoeuvre the Reds would perform in this sortie. Like the sortie, the briefing was very fast paced and left all but the most air-savvy minds boggled! The Reds left to get kitted up into their flying gear.

We were honoured to be able to then watch the Red Arrows perform their training sortie, which involved the second half of what would be their normal display. The only difference was the smoke! This was only white due to the cost of the blue and red dye. A bit different compared to what we would see at an air show, over a little bit quicker, but without doubt – just as breathtaking!

Running behind time from all the extra fun we’d had, we then set off in our minibus back to RAF Woodvale. A day not ever to be forgotten by all who took part I’m sure!

For more information about MASUAS visit

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