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Royals watch Trooping the Colour fly-past

The royal family gathered on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to watch the traditional RAF flypast marking the Queen's official birthday.

The Queen is surrounded by her family during the fly-past Credit: PA

Among the 28 aircraft which buzzed over the Palace were Spitfires and a Lancaster bomber of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a DC3 Dacota with D-Day stripes.

The historical planes were followed by modern Typhoon fighter jets, the Red Arrows aerobatic team and the RAF's largest transport aircraft, Voyager.

Read: Queen celebrates birthday with Trooping the Colour

Red Arrows celebrate 50th birthday with makeover

The Red Arrows are marking their 50th anniversary with a redesign.

The aircraft will keep their famous red and white fuselage, with the addition of a new tail design in styled like a Union flag.

The team says the redesigned tailfin reflects "the very British soul of the Red Arrows" Credit: SAC Craig Marshall (RAF)/MoD/Crown copyright/PA Wire

The team say the new design reflects the Red Arrows' role as ambassadors for the UK and as the public face of the RAF.

Squadron Leader Jim Turner said the tail redesign was chosen as the repainting the entire aircraft would be too expensive.

The Red Arrows putting on a display in 2013 Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The fin depicts the outlines of the Gnat jets that the team originally flew, and the current BAE Systems Hawk design.

The team's 2014 display season runs from the end of May until the close of September, during which it expects to complete 85 displays in nine countries.

More: Red Arrows take to the skies in Royal Air Tattoo

Father pays emotional tribute to Red Arrows pilot

The father of a Red Arrows pilot killed after he ejected from his aircraft while on the ground has paid an emotional tribute to him as an inquest into his death drew to a close.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed after he was ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton and propelled 220ft in the air in November 2011.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died in November 2011. Credit: PA Wire

Speaking after the narrative verdict was delivered, Jim Cunningham said: "Our son Sean died aged 35 doing what he loved, which was flying with the Red Arrows.

"From the age of 17, he had wanted nothing more than to join the Royal Air Force and serve his country, which he did with utmost pride and sense of duty. He served a number of tours in Iraq flying Tornados in close air support of coalition forces.

"Sean's death was a tragedy which we hope the evidence revealed in this inquest will help to avoid in the future. We welcome the conclusions of the coroner, which confirm what we knew all along, which is that Sean was blameless and his tragic death was preventable.

Read: Red Arrows pilot's seat was 'entirely useless'

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Ejector seat handle left in unsafe position

The inquest heard that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position, meaning it could accidentally activate the seat.

Mr Fisher described a safety pin that goes through the firing handle as "entirely useless" and said its presence was "likely to mislead".

The inquest heard that the ejection seat firing handle had been left in an unsafe position. Credit: PA Wire

There were 19 checks carried out on the Hawk T1 between the final flight on November 4 and the incident.

The coroner said there was a repeated failure not to notice that the pin had been incorrectly housed and that the seat firing handle was in an unsafe position.

However, he said tests had showed that the pin could be inserted into the MK 10 seat even when it was in an unsafe position, giving the impression to RAF personnel that the seat was safe.

The coroner also said that Martin Baker was aware of issues with the over-tightening of crucial nuts and bolts in the mechanism of the seat which would cause the main parachute not to deploy properly.

However despite being aware of these issues since 1990, Martin Baker failed to pass on the warnings to the Ministry of Defence, the coroner said.

Mr Fisher said that, on the day of the incident, a shackle jammed and stopped the main parachute from opening and Flt Lt Cunningham being separated from the seat.

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Coroner: Red Arrows pilot's seat was 'entirely useless'

The coroner investigating the death of a Red Arrows pilot has branded part of the ejection seat on Sean Cunningham's plane as "entirely useless".

Sean Cunningham

Cunningham was 35-years-old when he died in November 2011 from multiple injuries when he was catapulted nearly 300 feet into the air from his Hawk T1 aircraft, and then fell to the ground still strapped to his ejector seat.

Coroner Stuart Fisher said seven RAF personnel had 19 opportunities to check the ejection seat firing handle, but did not notice it was in the unsafe position.

He said "repeated failure to notice this" could only be due to the checks "not being done at all or not done sufficiently carefully by each individual".

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Red Arrows describe seeing "the whole thing"

Sean Cunningham was thrown 300 feet into the air from ejector seat Credit: ITV Calendar

The inquest into the death of Red Arrow Sean Cunningham heard how ground crew ran for safety after the pilot was thrown 300 feet into the air when his ejection seat went off while he prepared for take-off.

Cpl David Morris:

"The canopy filled with smoke and then Flt Lt Cunningham went with his seat through the canopy. As the canopy blew it took a couple of seconds to register what had happened.

"Then we ran to avoid parts of the canopy hitting us. I knew at some point the ejection seat was going to separate and it was going to fall to the ground.

"It looked like Flt Lt Cunningham was trying to stabilise himself. I could see his limbs moving. It looked as if he was trying to get his balance. The parachute didn't open. The seat came down and hit the floor, I could feel the thud. I saw the whole thing."

SAC Joseph Tiley, who had helped Flt Lt Cunningham prepare his aircraft for take-off said the ejection seat went off as he was carrying out last minute checks said:

"I was taking a step back to do the air brakes when I saw a flashy and black smoke. At that point I tucked myself up unto a ball, put my hands over my head and closed my eyes. I didn't see any of the ejection."

Sgt Chris Clarkson:

"I caught the flash from the ejection out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and I saw Sean leaving the aircraft. I watched him go over my head. Then we started getting hit by canopy so I turned away.

"I saw Joe Tiley on the floor. Being so close to the aircraft I thought he was possibly dead. "

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Low resources 'took my breath away' - Red Arrows Leader

An inquest into the death of Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham has heard that Squadron Leader Martin Higgins said he was surprised at the lack of resources in the team after returning from four years away.

The big change I have seen is that resource is now a big issue. It is a big ask on the boys downstairs [the engineers]. They understand what they need to do and really want to do it but I think they are at the stage where they need some resources.

When I looked at the board for August it took my breath away. It was quite busy with very few days off.

It surprised me. There were very few opportunities for engineers to get their hands on the aeroplanes.

Clearly four years had passed since I left the team. The aeroplanes were not getting any younger.

I assumed that the tempo would naturally have decreased with less resources that were at hand.

There were fewer engineers. In 2007 there were far more experienced personnel at the corporal-plus level. It seemed to me that a lot of dilution had occurred.

– Red Arrows Squadron Leader Martin Higgins
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Inquest hears hectic schedule gave engineers little time

An inquest into the death of pilot Sean Cunningham has heard that the hectic schedule of the Red Arrows display team meant engineers had little time to conduct work on their Hawk jets.

The inquest also heard the number of available engineers for the team had been reduced over the previous four years, but the workload remained the same.

Sean Cunningham Credit: ITV News Central

Sean Cunningham died in November 2011 after his ejection seat fired him into the air while he was preparing for take off.

The inquest was told the team was up to 20 engineers short and many were inexperienced with a number of mechanics on their first RAF posting after completing their basic training.

Squadron Leader Martin Higgins told the inquest that before Mr Cunningham's death the Red Arrows had been concentrating on learning lessons from the death of pilot, Jon Egging, who lost his life three months earlier when his Hawk Jet crashed while taking part in an air show at Bournemouth.

Squadron Leader Higgins said, "Due to the fact of Jon Egging's crash the priority would have focused on the lessons identified from the crash rather than administering the air safety management plan."

The hearing in Lincoln continues and is expected to last three weeks.

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