The Royal Air Force’s BAE Systems Hawk T1-equipped Red Arrows team will not carry out its aerobatic display during July’s Farnborough air show, amid concerns surrounding the safety of high-speed displays over populated areas following the fatal crash of a Hawker Hunter at the Shoreham air show last August.

Addressing media in Whitehall on 15 June, Air Vice-Marshal Andy Turner, the RAF’s air officer commanding and chief of staff for training, said that while the manoeuvred display will not go ahead, the aircraft will still be appearing at the show.

“We’ve decided that we will no longer conduct a display of the Red Arrows at Farnborough this year, but will conduct a series of flypasts, both with other aircraft types, and with the display formation itself in the air,” Turner says.

“In Farnborough there has been for many years a growth in the urbanisation of the region, and some changes to the domestic population, transport infrastructure and some of the businesses,” Turner says. “This has led us to recalculate what we think is a safe, sensible and appropriate display of the Red Arrows in the region, and our judgement is that it is no longer tolerable.”

The UK Civil Aviation Authority imposed tighter restrictions on aerobatic displays following the Shoreham disaster, which killed 11 people, and Turner says the same incident led the RAF to carry out “reviewed, refreshed and revitalised analysis around what we think is the public appetite for such activities” – and how this has changed over the 50 years since the Red Arrows was formed.

Turner says the analysis was as much about the “geographical dispersion” of the area as the manoeuvres involved. The Red Arrows’ full display involves aircraft passing some 4.5m (15ft) apart and with a closing speed of 740kt (1,370km/h) between jets. These also can be as low as 50-100ft above treetop height in front of a crowd.

“In most display areas that the team will display at – they will go to about 100 displays in this calendar year – there are no difficulties whatsoever with the terrain to the front of the crowd,” Turner notes. Two other planned Red Arrows appearances have been cancelled since Shoreham; the Dartmouth Regatta last August and the Fowey Royal Regatta in March.

RAF Red arrows

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A formation arrival with the Lockheed Martin F-35 is expected to take place on 11 July, and the appearance of the UK’s future fighter at Farnborough is being cleared in the USA now.

“Other things we are talking about that might be possible include other formation displays with the Red Arrows, which could include the [Lockheed] C-130, [Airbus] A400M or [A330] Voyager, and we are in negotiations with Airbus to look at doing something similar with the A350,” Turner says.

“The disappointing news for Farnborough, the local population, and for the [aerospace] sector, is that the [aerobatic] display for the Red Arrows will not occur this year.”