In August the RAF’s iconic display team, the Red Arrows, embarked on an 11-week tour of North America, flying shows in San Francisco, Ottawa, New York and a host of cities in between. “The tour aims to promote the best of British and deepen partnerships with close friends and allies,” the RAF said. All images: Crown Copyright / MOD

Setting out from RAF Scampton in the UK, the Red Arrows travelled over three days to Halifax in Canada, trailed by an RAF Atlas A400M transporter carrying equipment and support staff. As the squadron’s trademark Hawk T-1As are primarily used for training they are not designed for aerial refuelling, so stops in Iceland and Greenland were required during their transatlantic trek. 

“The aim of this North American tour is to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds through a world-class display of the best of British,” said Red Arrows Officer Commanding, Wing Commander Andrew Keith. In their first visit to North America in 11 years, the Red Arrows also took part in ground engagement, championing the Royal Air Force and promoting British trade.

After an initial stop in Canada, the Red Arrows made their way to the Chicago Air and Water Show, the largest free air show in the US. Onlookers braved thunderstorms to see them perform classic aerial acrobatics manoeuvres.  

Red Arrows displays change yearly but many of the manoeuvres that have made the team famous have stayed the same. The nine jets are supported in the air by Red 10, which communicates with the team leader, supervises the shows and provides commentary. The team continues training between display seasons - over winter, pilots fly three sorties a day, five days a week. 

A prominent stop on the tour for the Red Arrows was a flyover in New York City, where the Hawk T1-A jets flew in formation with F-35 and the US Air Force Thunderbirds. 

“To have the opportunity to fly along the Hudson in a fast-jet, with Manhattan’s skyscrapers lining part of the route and so many famous landmarks as a backdrop, was a fantastic, rewarding experience,” said Red Arrows team leader, Squadron Leader Martin Pert, of the visit to New York.

The Red Arrows were formed in 1964 merging the RAF Black Arrows and Yellowjacks, and used the Folland Gnat aircraft until 1979. The Gnat saw the Red Arrows though 1,292 displays before giving way to the now iconic Hawk. Since then the Hawk has seen the Red Arrows through a 1995-96 world tour, the Queen’s golden jubilee in 2002, and a 2018 flypast over the UK’s capital marking the centenary of the RAF.

Speaking before the North America tour kicked off, then UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “It will include an integrated programme of trade missions and business engagement, involving both the display team and ground crew, and build on the experience of previous tours to provide even stronger support for our business objectives”.