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As the Red Arrows blaze a red, white and blue trail across North America, just how hard is it to join the elite team?

The Red Arrows summer tour of North America took them over some stunning landmarks. Credit: MOD/Red Arrows

The Red Arrows are the public face of the Royal Air Force. This summer has seen the aerobatic team take part in its largest overseas deployment in a generation. The Reds took their trademark Hawk Jets and a 130-strong team across the Atlantic to show off the best of British to North America.

Over 11 weeks this summer the team - which includes members from Bristol, Yeovil and Plymouth - travelled coast-to-coast on a mission that aimed to promote Britain, strengthen ties across the pond and inspire the crowds along the way.

As well as performing their crowd-pleasing displays, the men and women spent time with fans on the ground and even visited schools to encourage a new generation of engineers or pilots.

Senior technician Ben Kennedy from Yeovil has worked on fast jets for his entire professional career.

For me it's an inspiration. We're out here performing in front of thousands of people. Not just from the air but on the ground as well. You know that people are just watching you thinking, 'I want to do that one day.'

– Senior Aircraftman Ben Kennedy, Circus 4
SAC Ben Kennedy - or Circus 4 - is one of the engineers working closely with the display pilots. Credit: ITV West Country

So, how do you join the Red Arrows?

The Red Arrows are part of the RAF - they are officially called the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. That means everybody on the team is a serving member of the force.

Find out more about joining the RAF

Once you've joined up - what next?

The Red Arrows are made up of pilots, engineers and support staff, all of whom have had frontline, operational experience. Members of the squadron have served on operational units whether fast jets or helicopters, strategic transport or intelligence-gathering aircraft.

So how can I become a Red Arrows pilot?

All the nine display pilots have flown operationally in aircraft like the Typhoon which help defend the country and our allies and keep the skies safe for all.

They are known as Red 1 through Red 9 with Red 10 as supervisor.

RAF pilots must meet the following criteria to apply for selection for the Red Arrows:

  • Have a minimum of 1,500 flying hours
  • Have completed a front line tour
  • Be assessed as being above average in their flying role

Applicants will have to go through a selection week including a flying test, formal interview and peer assessments.

Where would I be based?

The Red Arrows are based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire but this is due to close in 2022 and the team will have to move to a new site.

How often do spots in the Red Arrows become available?

Members of the Red Arrows sign up for a three year tour. When this is over, they return to their RAF duties.

There are nine display pilots - and numerous crew - so at the end of every season there are new opportunities.

Flight Lieutenant Alicia Mason is one of those who is stepping down at the end of the season. She says taking part in the Red Arrows North American Tour 2019 has been a bitter-sweet experience.

The Great Pacific Airshow is literally our last display and it's our last public display of the season. That means we're going to start losing some pilots and members of the team so it does get a little bit emotional... yes it's been great but sad to go.

– Flt Lt Alicia Mason, Circus 1
Hawk jets flying in formation over Toronto as part of the Red Arrows North American Tour. Credit: PA

Do you want to join the Circus?

Ten aircraft engineering technicians are chosen to form a team known as the Circus who support each pilot during the summer display season. They get to fly regularly in a fast jet making the spots some of the most sought-after engineering jobs in the Royal Air Force.

So is joining the Red Arrows an almost impossible dream?

Not at all - the RAF says many of the pilots and other members of the Squadron joined the Royal Air Force as a direct result of seeing the Red Arrows perform as children.

Could you be the person who loads the red, white and blue colours or pilots the planes? Credit: PA