The Red Arrows have been spotted practicing a new airshow sequence for the 2024 season which, in some ways, harks back to the 1990s and early 2000s, re-introducing popular manoeuvres that have not been seen for decades.
[File photo not from today’s practice]
With under four months to go until the start of the display season, the team performed their first 9-ship flight of the year today (Wednesday 7th February) – several weeks earlier than usual – rehearsing the first few manoeuvres of their show as a full team for the first time. This, along with other recent practice flights, allows us to begin piecing together their new display sequence, which has quite a different feel to their displays of the last few years.
For the first time since 2005, the team look set to start their display in Short Diamond formation (rather than the more traditional Nine Arrow or Big Vixen) with all nine jets smoking. However, unlike in 2005, the team will start with a crowd-rear arrival.
After several minutes of formation aerobatics, the team will perform a flat version of the 5-4 Split, last featured in the display in 2000. After splitting, the two formations will descend and fly in opposite directions down the runway for a Frecce Tricolori-style five vs four opposition pass – a popular feature of Red Arrows displays in the 1990s.
The second half of the show includes manoeuvres flown by alternating small groups of jets. Several Red Arrows staples are already being practiced for next year, including the Rollbacks, Vertical Break, Hanna Break, Hanna Pass and Heart.
Several new or modified manoeuvres are also being rehearsed. Python, a sequence of five-ship barrel rolls flown on the intermediate display lines, was introduced to the display in 2008 and has been included in the Red Arrows’ sequence every year since then. This year, it has been modified, with the second barrel roll being axed and replaced with a 360 degree turn in a line abreast formation. The team also seem to be practicing a new Corkscrew-style manoeuvre with at least six aircraft involved – possibly a flat show replacement of the Vertical Break.
Hanna also seem to be practicing a new manoeuvre inspired by the team’s 60th anniversary.
New Red 1 Sqn. Ldr. Jon Bond seems to be putting his mark on the Red Arrows’ display in his first year as the helm. Bond is one of the most experienced airshow pilots in the RAF, having displayed the Tucano T.1 in 2012 and spent five seasons with the Red Arrows between 2018 and 2022, including leading the Synchro Pair as Red 6 in 2021. He already demonstrated a penchant for innovation when he introduced the Rolling Heart to the Red Arrows’ repertoire while leading the Synchro Pair.
2024 will be an important year for the Reds, who are returning to their trademark 9-ship formation for the first time since 2021, since when a triple-whammy of scandals, resignations and medical problems forced the team to fly with fewer aircraft than usual. Before that, the 2020 and 2021 seasons were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the team flying far fewer shows than normal and, in the case of 2020, flying a slightly shortened, simplified display routine.
This year will also mark the Red Arrows’ 60th display season and is expected to include a major overseas tour. This will likely see them fly at European airshows from late May until late July, and Canadian airshows in August and early September, celebrating the centenary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. News of the tour has not been officially confirmed.