This item was written on 2 August 2017
I have just found, in my personal archives, an article I sent to various newspapers and aviation magazines in UK and overseas 20 years ago on 2 August 1997. I had originally compiled this selection specifically at the request of someone who had written in asking me for questions suitable for pub quizzes - some had to be straightforward, some had to be difficult. Of course, I had to ensure that my facts were correct so they were all plucked from the official End of Season Reports from 1965 to 1996. So, for the lovers of stats, here are the ones I collected in 1997:
1. The very first display by the Red Arrows was on 6 May 1965 at RAF Little Rissington, near Cirencester. It was for the benefit of the invited press only. The weather was poor; a flat display was flown.
2. The Team’s first public display was not in UK but in France, at the French National Air Day at Clermont Ferrand on 9 May 1965. The first public display for the UK public was at the International Air Fair at Biggin Hill on 15 May 65 (and the second on 16 May).
3. There were only seven display pilots in 1965 and the first part of 1966. Two reserve pilots were added for the 1966 Team but they were rarely, if ever, used so they were not happy!
4. Within hours of a Red Arrows display in Amman, Jordan, in 1966, a British businessman received an order from a Jordanian company for one million Christmas cards featuring the Red Arrows.
5. The Red Arrows received a bill for the petrol used in a hire car during their stay at Turin, Italy, in 1966. The bill amounted to 17s 3d (approx 85p). It was not recorded who paid the bill!
6. The first Red Arrows public displays with nine aircraft were in Pescara, Italy (10 Jul 1966), and Wiesbaden, Germany (31 Jul 1966). The first nine-aircraft public display in UK was on 6 Aug 1966 at Brawdy in South Wales.
7. The black and white cine film used by the Team to record display practises in the early years was available only from the USA. In 1971 a postal strike in USA deprived the Team of any film and so most of the work-up period was flown without the benefit of film for debriefings. It was recommended that videotape should replace film in future. Video was introduced in 1972 and has been used ever since.
8. An authenticated crowd of 650,000 people watched the Red Arrows’ display at Lisbon on 13 Jun 1973, a figure that was not exceeded until Sydney on 26 January 1996 when Australian media claimed one million people watched - but cynics pointed out that most of them would have been there anyway because it was the annual Australia Day celebrations.
9. A standard charge to display organisers for a Red Arrows’ display was introduced for the first time in 1977 - £200. In 1997 the standard charge was £5,600 including VAT and mandatory insurance. The money does not, and never did, come to the Red Arrows! It goes into RAF funds.
10. For a while during the summer of 1983 the Red Arrows operated from RAF Barkston Heath near Grantham while their new accommodation at Scampton was being built.
11. The famous photograph of the Red Arrows flying in formation with Concord over the QE2 was taken by the late and sadly-missed Arthur Gibson in 1985.
12. The first suggestion that the Team needed its own full time PRO was in the 1971 End of Season Report.
13. In 1972 each pilot was £8 out of pocket for extra messing charges incurred at various RAF Officers Messes during the season.
14. 1973 was the first year the Team gave over 100 displays (82 full, 17 flat and 4 rolling).
NB: The Red Arrows’ official website in 2019 is here.