Display Team Videos: Black Arrows Firebirds

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Tech Sergeant
Apr 6, 2005
I might end up regretting this but let's give it a try. It would be nice to have a thread with videos of display teams through the years. So what better place to start than a look at two long gone display teams. The Raf has had many teams but amongst the best were the ones in the 1960s. They were frontline aircraft and not trainers. Some think that while the Reds are fantastic their planes are not quite powerful enough for the same kind of spectacle as their US and Russian counterparts.

I have quite a few vids of display teams so I can do this I think. But if anyone else wants to join in then be my guest!

In closing I reckon I saw these Hunters and Lightnings when I was a kid. Yes, I am that old and still go to Clutch gigs! We were messing about on the tennis court and there was the most enormous roar from the sky. Right over our heads came more jet fighters than I had ever seen. I was a fan back then and knew what they were but sadly had no camera. It's a mind movie still though. Then we saw them on the telly and I immediately said - those are the planes we saw!


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Love the Lightnings' too bad they didn't have any taking off vertically.
Yes, the Lightning was an amazing airshow performer. Off the deck, retract the u/c, then pitchup into the near vertical making sure you don't scrape the tail on the runway. Had commensurately poor accident rate. In a book I read last year it listed all the crashes. The tally must have been not far off that for the F100 and F104.
I have a vid doc somewhere with Lightning take-offs so will see if can get it up here.
In the 10 years my dad served with 11 Sqn. two Lightnings were lost one due to an F.3 pilot flying a F.6 and being unable to handle it. The other due to under-carriage lock that forced the pilot to take it over to 'the Wash' and bang out.

Lightnings were excellent aircraft, the only reason they were stopped talking off vertically (they did it perfectly vertical) was in the late 70s the MOD stopped them due to stress on the old airframes.
Like the clip Roy I remember an interview with an instructor who said that all the pilots wanted to get there hands on their last two Lightings as they where the only planes left in the RAF that where pure, non gadget/avionics assisted planes "like flying a Spitfire with a big kick up the arse".
Even us "Yanks" were impressed with the performance of the Lightning. Here is a shot of a LOW pass that was done in 1986 at the Mildenhall Air Fete. I just caught it. I need to do a better scan of that image after the move and clean it up.


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American's knew it as the "All Aluminium Pursuit Ship" :lol:
Great shot from Mildenhall. I remember great airshow routines from Lightning pilots but with a tinge of sadness. I think hi sname was Thompson, the display pilot in the early 80s but later in the season he was killed while performing his awesome show over the sea. I have a video of the Mildenhall show in two forms - the TV coverage and mine own video. The latter being the first ever for me being behind the lens at an airshow. I really must dig them out.
Another clip from the series this time with the Red Pelicans (who I did see as a kid) and the yellow painted Gnats of the Yellowjacks which I didn't see. But I did see the Reds with their Gnats a few times.

I have a vid of TV prog they made with John Noakes visits with the red arrows while they flew Gnats.... another one to dig out and bung up here. Oh, so much to do.


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The magnifiicent Patrouille de France.

One of the few things I find to criticise is the Alpha Jet's single engine smoke. It gives an asymetrical appearance. Same for the F18 in the Blue Angels - great team but US teams disfavour coloured smoke.

I like the way the Euro teams can paint their national flag in the skies.


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I have never seen these guys but I wish I had.

They represent the polar opposite of your TBirds etc., usually with turboprops there is a risk of being too much the same as the representatives from the many other air forces equipped with such planes. Mind you it takes some skill as you will see here. But are they sexy enough to serve as a recruitment ploy?

I like the Polish Orliks and will get a vid clip of them up soon.

Meanwhile, I must find something a bit more vintage like the Yaks or Moths.... the Breitling Fighters? Argh awesome.


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