We Have Followed The Red Arrows As They Performed In The Washington DC Region

Red Arrows flyover of Washington Nationals baseball stadium. (Image credit: Red Arrows/Crown Copyright).

The Washington D.C. area was treated to a rare appearance by the Royal Air Force Acrobatic Team lately.

As you probably already know by now, the Royal Air Force Red Arrows are currently on their first North American tour in over a decade. As part of their eleven week deployment across Canada and the United States, after taking part in a rare NYC flyover along with the Thunderbirds, two F-35As Lightning II jets of the F-35 Demo Team and two F-22s of the Raptor Demo Team ahead of the New York International Air Show, the Red Arrows spent a few days in the Washington D.C. region on Aug. 26-27, 2019.

The team flies the BAE Systems Hawk T.1., which is an advanced jet trainer/light attack aircraft with over 900 airframes produced. The Red Arrows operate some of the oldest Hawks in the RAF: this is the norm for most aerial demonstration teams, who tend to receive their aircraft which are cascaded down from operational units.

Originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, the Hawk was first developed as a tandem seat advanced pilot trainer. Soon afterward it was further developed as a light ground attack aircraft with some air to air capability. Demonstrating the soundness of the design, the United States Navy selected a beefed up version of the plane, the Goshawk T-45C in 1981. Fully carrier qualified, the T-45C is the standard jet trainer of the U.S. Navy.

The Red Arrows flew 12 Hawks across the Atlantic over a three day period. This was due in part that the aircraft is a trainer with relatively short range and lacks air-to-air refueling capability. Departing their home base of RAF Scampton, they made refueling and rest stops in Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, and finally Canada. Throughout their tour, they are being logistically supported by a RAF Atlas A400M transport.

The route the Red Arrows followed to deploy to Northern America (Image credit: UK MOD).

Their first Washington flyover was a nine ship formation with a tenth Hawk (Red 10, piloted by Sqn Leader Adam Collins) serving as a photography platform. The Red Arrows overflew Washington’s monumental core in the “Big Battle” formation. The formation approached from the southeast over the Jefferson Memorial, banked left and exited the Capital to the west.

“Big Battle” formation overflying Washington D.C. (Image credit: Author).

Their next appearance was to be a three aircraft flyover of the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate as the cloud cover was too low. Thus the three ship flyover was scrubbed and the Hawks landed individually and taxied to the museum’s ramp.

Red Arrows arrive at Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles International Airport. (Image credit: Author)

This offered a rare opportunity for museum visitors to gather outside the north end of the building and observe the Hawks as they arrived.

Following engine shutdown and media availability to photograph the planes and interview the crew, the public was allowed to wonder around the aircraft and observe them close hand. The crew members then proceeded indoors for a panel discussion about the Red Arrows and their North American tour.

Red Arrows Squadron Leader Adam Collins who flies as Red 10 – Supervisor of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The stunning aerial photographs of the Red Arrows performing in North America are taken from his aircraft. (Image credit: Author).
Red Arrow Hawks reflected in the windows of the Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles International Airport. (Image credit: Author).
Red Arrow Hawk T.1. at Udvar-Hazy Center, Dulles International Airport. (Image credit: Author).

Later that same day, the Red Arrows once again flew their nine aircraft “Big Battle” formation over the Washington Nationals baseball stadium.

As we Americans are more used to the Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force’s Thunderbirds performing with their standard six aircraft display, it was most impressive to watch the Red Arrows flyover in their nine Hawk formation. It is too bad there was no air show in the D.C. area, for them to perform their full aerial demonstration.

After Washington DC, the Red Arrows headed northwest to fly over the Niagara Falls and then went to Toronto where they were joined by the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds display team.

The Red Arrows tour continues across the Western half of the United States and concludes on Oct. 8, 2019.

The Red Arrows North American Tour. (Image credit: UK MOD).

About Randy Jennings
Randy Jennings is the proud son of combat WWII Mustang pilot, Warner Jennings. From birth, he has been obsessed by all things aviation; past, present and future. As a photojournalist, he has covered aviation events in the United States and Europe. He lives in the Washington DC region with his beautiful wife and rambunctious daughter.