It was with great sadness that I heard the shocking news of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham’s tragic death. The Red Arrows pilot was killed on Tuesday 8thNovember in an incident invol
It was with great sadness that I heard the shocking news of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham’s tragic death. The Red Arrows pilot was killed on Tuesday 8thNovember in an incident involving his ejector seat, details are yet to be disclosed. This accident comes less than three months after the death of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, another Arrows pilot, killed when his Hawk T1 aircraft crashed after performing in an air show. Although these two accidents are unrelated it is highly likely that they will call into question the future of the Red Arrows.
As it stands at the moment the Royal Air Force have stated that the Red Arrows will fly again. However in the light of the recent tragedy it has to be speculated as to whether the RAF will be able to protect the Arrows from the severe budget cuts being made by the Ministry of Defence.
Personally I think it would be a real tragedy to lose the Arrows. For me they represent our country at its strongest. Inarguably the Arrows are the best acrobatic air display team in the world, regularly performing manoeuvres that others could only dream of accomplishing. They are the face of our Air Force and they gain us respect from other countries due to the death-defying stunts they are capable of pulling off.
On another, completely different level, they bring joy to millions around the world through their constant performances at air shows. They are the so called ‘act’ that millions go to see, they are the show stopper, the crowd pleaser and their presence would be sorely missed if they were to disappear.
In 2008 I had the pleasure of meeting the Arrows team as well as the nine men who were trying out to become future Arrows. The men I met were down-to-earth genuinely nice guys who hadn’t let the fame and accomplishment of being an Arrow go to their heads. I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of their post-practice debriefings. Whilst watching the performance back on the big screen, I could see nothing wrong with any of it. To the untrained eye they were in perfect formation with every loop, spin and heart stopping fly past. However this was not good enough for them. They were critical of their flying positions down to a single inch at times. Their passion and dedication was amazing and it really gave me insight into why these men are the best.
It is sometimes easy to forget that these men are actually soldiers. The glory of being a Red Arrow often obscures the fact that these men have all fought for our country. To even be considered to try out to become an Arrow, each pilot has to have amassed at least 1,500 hours flying time and needs to have completed at least one front line duty. They then have to go through the rigorous tests put in place by the Arrows, which not only include their flying ability, but also their personality and their manner when talking to the media. By the time these men become part of the Arrows team they well and truly deserve it.
I would hope that if the future of the Red Arrows is ever called into question, the citizens of our country would support them and fight to keep them. I for one certainly would as I think it would be terrible to lose something so innately British and something that no other country in the world is capable of rivalling.