A view from above – Red Arrows’ lead pilot praises Expo 2020 Dubai site as a phenomenal piece of engineering and design

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Dubai: The UK’s Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, took to the skies above Expo 2020 Dubai in a dynamic and colourful display, as part of the UK Pavilion’s participation at the world’s greatest entertainment and cultural gathering.

For 20 minutes, nine aircraft flew in formation around the site, trailing vapours of red, white and blue in a breath-taking series of low and high-flying precision manoeuvres.

The Expo News Service team has been speaking to Wing Commander David Montenegro, Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, about participating in Expo 2020, what the site looks like from the air, and the Red Arrows’ intensive training.

What does it take to join the Red Arrows?
“The pilots in the Red Arrows are all front line, operationally-based fighter pilots. Aerobatics rather than sustained formation is something that we teach right from the early days of becoming a fighter pilot. When they join this team, they specialise in formation. The Red Arrows don’t just move on the sight of the formation leader, who is moving left or right. They move on the cadence of his voice to every single turn, every loop, every roll that’s narrated by Red One [the team leader]. They have a really difficult job because they have to make sure that their aeroplane is doing exactly what Red One is saying, and the team pilots will listen out to his commands. And on the end of a full, roll or flat, everyone puts in what we call a ‘predetermined input’, which makes the formation perfectly symmetrical in relation to them. The formation position is anything between six to 12 feet apart, so it’s really close.”

What are the Red Arrows doing here at Expo 2020 Dubai?
“We’re very honoured to be invited as one of the many UK contributions to this World Expo. It was very exciting to be doing a full Red Arrows display above the entire Expo 2020 site.”

What did visitors get to see during the display?
“Visitors to the Expo site will have seen four Red Arrows display, with all nine aircraft, approximately 12 to eight feet apart, looping and rolling up to 6,000 feet at 400 miles per hour. The display was 20 minutes long. We separated into two halves; the first half included graceful shapes, and signature manoeuvres, such as the diamond; in the second half, we performed dynamic fast opposition passes, turning the aircraft at six to eight G-forces to give spectators the biggest wow factor.”

How does the Expo site look from the air?
“The site looks incredible – you can see all the pavilions very clearly from 1,000 to 3,000 feet. I’m sure commercial airliners and passengers can see the site quite clearly. We’ve only seen it in the daytime and even then, it’s a phenomenal piece of engineering, architecture and design. But we can’t wait to see the site at night time, with all the lights to see how it really comes to life in that environment.”

Expo 2020 is all about innovation. Tell us about the Red Arrows future vision.
“The Red Arrows has been talking about the innovative aspects of aviation for 57 years, and we still look to the future. One really interesting project we’re currently working on is a redesign of our smoke systems. We are working with industry partners, including universities, at how we can create a sustainable footprint, from a Red Arrows perspective and an aviation perspective. Our engines can take a 50:50 blend of diesel and sustainable synthetic fuel.”

The UK Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District and is inspired by ‘Breakthrough Message’, one of the final projects by the late scientist Stephen Hawking. The pavilion highlights leading British expertise in sectors that include artificial intelligence and space, under the theme ‘Innovating for a Shared Future’.