Boyhood dream comes true as pilot joins the Red Arrows
- Credit: Cpl Ashley Keates
Flt Lt David Simmonds, 38, will be flying in the Red 3 position in the RAF team’s precision displays, using the British-built BAE Systems Hawk T1 fast-jet.
A former Air Cadet, he was born and brought up in Ipswich and is a previous Tornado GR4 pilot, who also flew the Harrier on exchange with the United States Marine Corps.
He said: “I used to attend airshows with my family and loved watching the Red Arrows display. They made me want to be a pilot in the first place so, having achieved that, the opportunity to join the team myself and be part of the display is a dream come true.
“I’m most looking forward to meeting supporters of the team at airshows and hopefully inspiring them to become the future of the RAF as the team did for me. I see it as my chance to give back to the RAF by telling future generations what fantastic opportunities are out there in the Service.”
He will be one of nine pilots in the tea, who will be training for the new season until late-May, including a combination of flying in the UK, at the team’s base at RAF Scampton, and also overseas, where more settled, better weather allows focussed preparation.
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Pilots fly up to three times a day, five days a week, meaning the Red Arrows’ support staff, including engineers and technicians, are very busy throughout this period.
The new season is expected to include a combination of domestic displays and a tour of North America, where the team – which is the public face of the RAF – will aim to support important UK interests across areas such as business, trade, education and defence.
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These individuals are selected in a thorough process, involving interviews, flying tests and peer assessments.
However, before even applying for the team, a pilot must have amassed 1,500 flying hours, be classed as above average in their flying role and completed an operational tour – for example, helping to secure the skies of the UK on Quick Reaction Alert.
A pilot will then spend between two and four years with the team before returning to the frontline, instructional or staff duties.
There are nine pilots who fly in the Red Arrows’ precision displays, using the British-built BAE Systems Hawk T1 fast-jet.