British Red Arrows Debut In China
(Source: Xinhua; issued October 27, 2016)
BEIJING --- Complete synchronicity - down to every breath. That's the key to the stunning aerial displays put on by the Britain's legendary Red Arrows - officially known as the Royal Air Force (RAF) Aerobatic Team.

The Red Arrows arrived in China for their first ever visit on Oct. 22 and they are scheduled to perform at the 11th annual Airshow China, in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, in the first week of November.

Hammerhead breaks, slalom and rollback maneuvers - the nine-strong squad of Hawk T1 jets are promising a dazzling display for the milestone event, Squadron Leader David Montenegro said at the Smart Talk which was organized by British Council in Beijing on Tuesday.

Montenegro, the leader of one of the world's most recognizable display teams, said the 25-minute show would see the jets fly as close as six-feet apart at more than 400 miles an hour.

The pilots must concentrate on timing. "Only when you put yourself in the right position, can you be in complete synchronicity with the other pilots," he said. "I will tell you every single turn, roll and loop."

Precision is essential and extensive practice is necessary to be in the right position: "We even breathe carefully to calculate times."

Established in 1964, the Red Arrows have since completed more than 4,700 displays in 56 countries. They often perform at major, national occasions, such as the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The team includes 109 ground crew and support staff: specialists in avionics and dyes, weapons technicians, photographers, logistics and transport experts, mechanical engineers, and survival equipment fitters.

Montenegro is primarily responsible for all aspects of the displays, from running the training program and creating the routines to leading the team on the ground and in the air.

But even he admits to making mistakes. "Everyone has an element of the human error, but my mistakes are evident to the team," he said. "I have to give the team confidence to follow me. I have to build up trust up with my team."

Two or three new pilots join the Red Arrows each year, succeeding those who finish their tours. Typically, they spend three years with the team before returning to other duties.

Each candidate must have years of dedication, training and exceptional service as an RAF jet pilot and a front-line, operational tour of duty under their belt.

The Hawk T1 - at 11.9 meters long with a 9.4-meter wingspan - entered service with the Red Arrows in 1980.

It has a maximum altitude of 48,000 feet, with a thrust of 5,200 pounds powered by twin shaft turbofan Rolls-Royce engines.

Montenegro said Red Arrows don't seek to compete with other aerobatic teams as there are so few teams around.

"Science, technology and aviation is a global language," he said. "I think we speak the same language with other pilots."


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