The Royal Air Force (RAF) demonstration took place August 22, alongside the US Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team and four US Air Force F-35s. The entire crew for the Red Arrows' North American tour comprises 108 people, PR Manager Andrew Morton told Insider.
The Red Arrows fly the BAE Systems T1 Hawk, as they have done since 1979. While the system is 40 years old, the Hawk is a dependable aircraft and "a testament to the British engineering behind them," Red Arrow engineering team member Ben Ireland told Insider. "I think the pilots see them as almost like flying a classic sports car," Operations Officer Doug Smith said.
The Red Arrows are on their largest North American tour in 11 years, visiting 26 cities in the US and Canada over 11 weeks. The tour is representative of the strong relationship between the US and the UK — "No nations work more closely together," Morton said.
The Red Arrows flew from Stewart Airport down to the Hudson River, down the lower tip of Manhattan, flying by landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the One World Trade Center building. "You see on a map with New York on there, and you're about to fly down the Hudson... We've been talking about it for months," Flight Lieutenant Damon Green told Insider.
Becoming a Red Arrows pilot is extremely difficult, Smith told Insider. Pilots must have combat experience, have flown 1,500 fast-jet hours in the RAF's Tornado or Typhoon aircraft, and must have been assessed as above-average pilots during their careers. Applicants who make the short list — about nine pilots each year — will then be assessed by the rest of the team and complete a flying test.
Two F-35 Lightning II aircraft flew in formation behind the Red Arrows.
The aircraft made several pit stops on the way from the UK to the US. "We route them from our home base in Scampton, up to Scotland [...] across to Iceland, Doug Smith told Insider. "We then flew across to a very very small landing strip in Greenland, quick refuel there, and the jets then flew across to Goose Bay in Canada." From Goose Bay, the jets flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were tuned up. "Flying that far is quite hard punishment on the aircraft," Red Arrow engineering team member Ben Ireland told Insider. "They were never really designed to fly that far."
Jets from the F-22 Raptor demonstration team flew alongside the Red Arrows over New York City on August 22.
“To have the opportunity to fly along the Hudson in a fast-jet, with Manhattan’s skyscrapers lining part of the route and so many famous landmarks as a backdrop, was a fantastic, rewarding experience," Red Arrows Squadron Leader Martin Pert said in a release.
Two F-35s flew in tight formation with the Red Arrows. “Even more exhilarating was being able to complete this flypast knowing the Thunderbirds were just ahead of us and the F-22s and F-35s tucked in behind our aircraft," Pert said.