The UK’s 2Excel Aviation has called time on its aerobatic display team The Blades, citing factors such as global economic pressures and the reduced number of domestic air shows for creating “an unsustainable business model”.

“With heavy hearts, 2Excel Aviation is announcing that 2022 was the final full season for The Blades,” the company said on 23 January, adding: “the decision has not been taken lightly”.

The Blades aerobatic display team

Source: 2Excel Aviation

Company had operated The Blades team since its formation in 2006

“In the best interests of all our employee-owners, we needed to take action and redeploy our resources elsewhere within our fast-growing company,” it says.

“The challenges to global economies, the worsening cost-of-living crisis and the protracted hit to disposable incomes this is causing have exacerbated the challenges facing The Blades,” 2Excel says. “This comes amid the continued degradation of the air show circuit, with more and more events being lost, meaning fewer opportunities to display and showcase our sponsors to the public.”

“During the 17 flying seasons The Blades delivered, millions of people saw the team display and thousands have ridden onboard our aircraft,” says 2Excel co-founder and director Andy Offer: one of the team’s original pilots. “The concept emerged from the many requests I had during my time in the [Royal Air Force’s] Red Arrows to take members of the public flying,” he notes.

2Excel 727 with The Blades

Source: Ewan Hoyle Photography

The Blades, in formation with one of 2Excel’s 727s, at the 2022 Royal International Air Tattoo

The company says “consultations are ongoing” with The Blades’ pilots and support staff, noting that they have “desirable skillsets we hope to retain and redeploy elsewhere within the business as we seek to meet increasing demand for 2Excel’s innovative aerospace services”.

Now describing itself as a “mini-prime” which provides services including flight-testing for partners such as Leonardo UK, 2Excel began its operations by founding The Blades.

“They debuted in 2006 and have been the one constant during the company’s expansion from just four aeroplanes and five people to the 30 aircraft and almost 500 employees the group comprises today,” 2Excel says.

The team displayed using Extra 300 two-seat aerobatic aircraft, operated from Sywell aerodrome in Hertfordshire.