Red Arrows cleared to fly at seafront air festival

ORGANISERS of this year’s Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival are on cloud nine today after their top of the bill display, the Red Arrows, were cleared to fly after being grounded for several days.

All the RAF’s Hawk jet trainers, including the aircraft flown by the world-renowned display team, were grounded last week after a fault was found with the plane’s ejector seat.

Cracks were spotted by engineers during routine inspections at RAF Valley at Anglesey, where most of the �5million Hawks are based.

The Ministry of Defence made the decision to ground all Hawks which could potentially be suffering the same fault.

“As you can imagine, it has been an anxious few days following the disappointing news the Red Arrows had been grounded and we are relieved and delighted they will now be with us again and headlining next week’s exciting airshow,” said Air Festival spokesman Barry Hartley.

The Red Arrows, who are in the middle of a busy summer display season, were inspected as a matter of urgency and were finally given the all-clear on Wednesday morning.

It has not been a happy year for the team, this being the second time they have been grounded.

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The 2010 display season was delayed after a mid-air collision during the team’s pre-season training in Crete in March.

One of the pilots, Flight Lieutenant Mike Ling, ejected from his aircraft but has been unable to fly with the team this year due to his injuries which included a dislocated shoulder.

His Hawk crashed on the runway while the other pilot, Flight Lieutenant David Montenegro, landed his aircraft safely with no injuries.

The training scheduled resumed with a replacement pilot, Flight Lieutenant Paul “Pablo” O’Grady, but several of the team’s early season displays had to be cancelled.

The Red Arrows have been a regular feature of Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival over the past 14 years - they have missed only one year when there was a family bereavement involving the team’s leader.