What will the Red Arrows’ shortened 2020 display routine look like?

SCAMPTON | The RAF Red Arrows were awarded their Public Display Authority for 2020 today (Wednesday 8th July), but this year’s display routine will be a little different to usual.

With the majority of airshows cancelled, several RAF display teams suspended and the Red Arrows abandoning their annual training spring exercise in Cyprus, it seemed possible a few months ago that we might not be seeing the acclaimed aerobatic team display at all this year.

However, following a three-and-a-half week gap in their training, the Red Arrows resumed flying activities at their RAF Scampton base on April 15th, and have been working up a reduced display routine here in the UK, performing practice sorties at Scampton, Syerston and Donna Nook. This led them to achieve their Public Display Authority (PDA), their permission to perform in front of the public, around six weeks later than usual.

The 2020 display routine follows a largely familiar format, although is slightly shorter than in other years. The display will start with around seven minutes of nine-ship formation aerobatics, which in the case of the full display will include two loops and one barrel roll (down from a more typical two barrel rolls in recent seasons). This will be followed by the ever-popular Tornado, which has this year been upgraded to feature Reds 1-5 leading in line abreast, creating a Tango-eqsue formation.

The second half of this year’s full, flat and rolling shows all begin with the Detonator this year, a manoeuvre that typically features only the flat and rolling displays. This will be followed by some of the Red Arrows’ trademark opposition manoeuvres, including the Gypo Pass, Carosel and Goose, and the crowd favourite Heart. A new, flatter version of the Heart, known as the Rolling Heart, will allow the Red Arrows’ famed sky art to be flown in the rolling display for the first time.

Two manoeuvres have been dropped from the display at this point; typically Reds 1-5, 8 and 9 join up for a formation manoeuvre such as the Vertical Break, followed by an opposition pass by the Synchro Pair. Instead, the display will skip straight to a series of manoeuvres by Enid and Gypo, which will include the Python (replaced by the Slalom in the flat display), the Mirror Pass, the Rollbacks and the Gypo Break.

A new manoeuvre known as Crossbow – an opposition pass that combines the Opposition Barrel Rolls with Vice-Versa – will serve as the penultimate manoeuvre, before the display is concluded with the Vixen Break. Despite a shorter duration, and greater commonality between the full, flat and rolling display routines, the inclusion of several new or upgraded manoeuvres, as well as the retention of most crowd favourite manoeuvres, means fans will still enjoy a fresh and exciting performance.

However, the Red Arrows were seen practicing several manoeuvres before the lockdown which are no longer to be featured in this year’s display, including the Vertical Break, and a manoeuvre that appeared similar to the Twizzles, in which five or seven aircraft peel out of formation to execute synchronised barrel rolls. It has not been featured in a Red Arrows display for well over a decade. Until March, the Red Arrows were also seen practicing the Wall arrival part of the Red Arrows’ show in 2016 and 2017, but their final show instead sees them arriving in a more traditional Nine Arrow formation.

Already this year, the Red Arrows have performed three high-profile flypasts, marking VE Day in London and Armed Forces Day in Scarborough, as well as flying over London and Paris with the Patrouille de France on the 18th June. The Red Arrows said achieving PDA would allow them “to respond fully, with preparation completed, to any future national tasking across the UK,” although with most airshows cancelled and others still in doubt, it is not yet clear where and when the public will be able to see them in action.

At the time of writing, only three major UK airshows remain this season: the Jersey and Guernsey air displays, and the Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow, all in September. There are also a smattering of smaller events planned, and at least one foreign airshow has also told This is Flight reporters that they are in talks with the team. It is also possible that the Reds could participate in one-off aerial displays on their own around the country.

Red 10 Sqn Ldr Adam Collins said the team is “ready to display as soon as restrictions allow.”