We are really proud at Icarus Originals to work with the Red Arrows, as one of their official licensees and so we thought it would be good to give a bit of insight into the origins of the team.
The Royal Air Force Red Arrows have a special place in the hearts of the British public and have delighted crowds around the UK and indeed around the world for decades. As famous as the ‘Reds’ are amongst aviation fans and the general public alike, less is known about their predecessors and how the Red Arrows came to be.
Early Years – Aerobatic Displays and the RAF
After World War 1, and a heightened public interest in aviation, there were a series of displays during the 1920s. These included a pageant in 1920 featuring a number of squadrons, and notably the 1925 ‘London Defended’ display. This event featured 32 Squadron flying specially-adapted Sopwith Snipes during a series of evening displays above the Wembley arena. The event entailed:
Red painted aircraft with white lights fitted to the wings and tail to aid visibility.
The firing of blank ammunition.
The dropping of pyrotechnics into the arena coupled with explosions on the ground
Into the Jet Age
The post-war years were to see a plethora of unofficial and official display teams utilise a wide range of aircraft. The increasing sophistication of the available jets was to allow for a number of ‘firsts’, both in airmanship and technical innovation. Aircraft used in displays included:
De Havilland Vampires
English Electric Lightnings
BAC Jet Provosts
The first of what came to be the iconic smoke trails was utilised by No. 54 Squadron in the mid 1950s, whilst in 1956 No. 111 squadron became the official RAF team, flying Hawker Hunters. For the first time, these aircraft sported a special all-black paint scheme, becoming known as the ‘Black Arrows’.
The Black Arrows became the first of a number of teams with specific names and liveries that were to originate from various RAF commands. They achieved a world record in 1958 with a 22-ship formation performing a loop and barrel roll. The Black Arrows passed the mantle of display team to No. 92 Squadron, also flying Hunters, but now known as the Blue Diamonds.
The creation of the Red Arrows
During the early 1960s there were a number of display teams in addition to the Blue Diamonds, including the ‘Tigers’ and the ‘Firebirds’, both flying English Electric Lightnings. By 1964 the ‘Red Pelicans’, a team of six BAC Jet Provosts became the leading display team for the Royal Air Force. Even so, that same year yet another team emerged when No. 4 Flying Training School sent a team of five Folland Gnats to perform at Farnborough. This latter team would become known as the ‘Yellowjacks’.
RAF senior leadership became understandably concerned that a sizeable portion of their aircrew were spending more time practising for aerobatic displays, than for front line operational duties. Hence in 1964 it was decided to amalgamate all the teams into one official unit – The Royal Air Force Red Arrows.
A Final Word – Why the Red Arrows?
The name Red Arrows comes from an amalgamation of “Red” from the Red Pelicans, and the heritage of the Black Arrows. (If you’ve ever wondered why red was chosen as the team colour – aside from the name of course – then unsurprisingly it’s simply due to the higher visibility that colour confers to both aircrew and spectators. Also, it looks awesome!
BA 747-436 G-CIVY became the last BA 747 to depart Heathrow (with sister aircraft G-CIVB) on the morning of 8th October 2020. In overcast and drizzly conditions, she carried out a flypast of the airfield before setting course for St. Athan, near Cardiff, where she was scrapped in December 2020.
Twenty-two years of service
G-CIVY first flew on 25th September 1998 and was delivered to her British Airways London Heathrow base four days later. Her Manufacturer Serial Number was 28853. Her final revenue (cargo) flight, as BAW192, landed at Heathrow from Dallas Fort Worth on 5th April 2020, when she was withdrawn from service and entered storage having accumulated over 90,000 flight hours.
Origins of the 747
The 747 was the result of the work of some 50,000 Boeing people. Called ‘the Incredibles’, these were the construction workers, mechanics, engineers, secretaries and administrators who made aviation history by building the 747 — the largest civilian aeroplane in the world — in roughly 16 months during the late 1960s. The incentive for creating the 747 jumbo jet came from reductions in airfares, a surge in air-passenger traffic and increasingly crowded skies. As the world’s first wide-body jetliner, the 747 revolutionized air travel becoming known as the ‘Queen of the Skies’, cementing Boeing’s dominance in the passenger aircraft market.
The 747-400 rolled out in 1988. It was truly monumental in size and required construction of the 200 million-cubic-foot (5.6 million-cubic-meter) 747 assembly plant in Everett, Washington, the world’s largest building (by volume). The fuselage of the original 747 was 225 feet (68.5 meters) long; the tail as tall as a six-storey building. Its wingspan is 212 feet (64 meters), and it has 6-foot-high (1.8-meter-high) ‘winglets’ on the wingtips. Pressurized, it carried a ton of air. The cargo hold had room for 3,400 pieces of baggage and could be unloaded in seven minutes. The total wing area was larger than a basketball court. Yet, the entire global navigation system weighed less than a modern laptop computer.
BA and the 747-400 series
British Airways was one of the Boeing 747’s earliest customers and the world’s largest operator of the jumbo jets. Having operated 15 BOAC 747s following BOAC’s merger with BEA, the British Airways that we know today took delivery of its first 747 in 1974.
The airline’s first 747-400 was delivered in June 1989. Over the years, British Airways operated a total of 57 Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Deliveries of British Airways 747-400s took place for ten years until April 1999.
On 16 July 2020, British Airways announced it was immediately retiring the remaining Boeing 747-400 aircraft. BA had originally intended to phase out the last 747s by 2024 but brought the plans forward in part due to the downturn in air-travel following the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus on replacing the 747 with the more fuel-efficient Airbus A350, Airbus A380, and Boeing 787.
Continuing the Journey – Icarus Originals and Aerotiques
Prior to her final demolition, sections from the port and starboard rear fuselage were removed. These were acquired by Aerotiques Ltd to produce unique items. Icarus Originals has been entrusted with some of this reclaimed material to manufacture this special range of BA 747-436 G-CIVY cufflinks and desktop models in association with Aerotiques. These have been produced by melting down the original airframe aluminium and recasting (using the lost wax method) ensuring this iconic aeroplane will live on beyond her retirement.
To find out more about 747-436, G-CIVY and the production process please visit our Original Icons section or click here.
British Airways 747-436 G-CIVY Mini Model
Own a piece of BA 747 history with this model made from aluminium recovered from BA 747-436 G-CIVY.
Created in partnership with Aerotiques, these limited edition mini models feature a perfect replica of a 747 cast from fuselage aluminium recovered from the last BA 747 to leave London Heathrow – 747-436, G-CIVY.
Set on a laser engraved plaque which pays tribute to BA’s famous ‘Oneworld’ design, each of these mini models has been handmade and polished in the UK.
Get your mini model today and continue the journey of this aviation icon.
Own a piece of BA 747 history with these cufflinks made from aluminium recovered from BA 747-436 G-CIVY.
Created in partnership with Aerotiques, these limited edition cufflinks are a perfect replica of a 747 cast from fuselage aluminium recovered from the last BA 747 to leave London Heathrow – 747-436, G-CIVY.
Individually cast, each of these cufflinks has been handmade and polished in the UK.
Get your cufflinks today and continue the journey of this aviation icon.
Bespoke Plane jewellery is the perfect amalgamation of masterful dexterity, unique design and individual expression. ‘Bespoke’ enables buyers to convey deep personal messages through a singular piece of jewellery, a factor that cannot be matched by mass-produced adornments. Our clients that purchase our products hold jewellery close to their hearts. Whether they are influenced by the quality, sentimentality or value for money – Bespoke triumphs fast-fashion for their accessories. Our cufflinks meet their wants and style while still providing the satisfaction that spans a lifetime. So to help you get the best from your future jewellery purchases, below are 4 benefits of purchasing custom-made bespoke cufflinks.
Jewellery is often an extremely sentimental possession. And when it comes to customised jewellery, the sentimental and emotional value is what entices people to purchase products.
Our pieces are genuinely unique and allow our customers to own a small piece of a much larger story. Whether the metal has originated from one of the first Concorde airliners, an iconic classic car or a bullet train from Japan, our products are inherently timeless classics. Knowing that you are walking around with a carefully and painstakingly crafted piece of a Tornado GR4, designed in conjunction with the crew that flew the aircraft enables you to connect with the maker and learn their story on a much deeper level. A piece of history that you can forever treasure.
Quality & Craftsmanship
Unlike mass-produced jewellery which is created in bulk and often by automated machinery, Bespoke products are carefully crafted by a designer, with meticulous attention to detail that can only be achieved by a human touch.
With the very best of British craftsmanship, all of our jewellery is handmade utilising painstaking, traditional jewellery manufacturing processes to create some of the finest bespoke Jewellery money can buy.
Last week we were fortunate enough to catch up with Doug Newton, a flight test engineer on the Concorde development programme. Graciously, he allowed us to delve into the mindset of what it was like to live, work and experience the magnificence of flying on the fastest aircraft to grace the skies. From inception to decommission, the Concorde was truly a homage to what was then perceived as the future of flight and we wanted to ask Doug the good, the bad and the not so elegant experiences he encountered working on this supersonic aircraft. Here’s what he had to say…
What was your role/responsibility on the Concorde Airline? How long did you do this for?
I left the RAF in 1968 and John Cockon – a DP chief test pilot on Concorde at the time – was looking for an armament tradesman. John and I had met during our time within the Forces, so I went for an interview and got accepted to work on the Concorde development programme.
I was first employed in the safety equipment section, which involved dealing with parachutes and aircraft clothing. Shortly afterwards, I began working with mainly flight recorders on the Concorde 001 prototype and the Concorde 002. I also fitted lateral thrust units to both the 002 and 101 – later the AXDN – which were fired off into the air to disturb control services and cause flutter.
I was also responsible for manning Concorde 101’s emergency repel unit at the time, which contained monomethyl hydrazine – a rocket fuel. I have a profound memory of myself and my colleagues having to fire off the unit in mid air at one stage because the engine control tables went through a bulkhead. To get it off we had to strip off the earthing wire so that the voltage was so high it passed through the same wiring loom.
**Side note: to put this into perspective for those non-engineers out there, a drop of hydrazine can burn a hole through your hand, so this was a fairly complex procedure to do whilst mid flight!
What’s your most memorable experience on the Concorde? (Good & Bad)
Flying from Singapore back to Bahrain was a particularly memorable experience on the Concorde; not necessarily for the best of reasons. During runway response checks on the GBBD 202, the runway was in such dire condition that when I sat down on the back of the aircraft, I just remember the fly deck rotating round and round like a wagging finger. In fact, the bumps on the runway were so bad, that shortly after we left, the government resurfaced the runway which is now why the main civil airway is in Changi airport.
I distinctly remember on the final take off – which was a record breaking flight by the way – I was asked to sit on the flight deck and all I could hear was a bang. “Keep going, keep going” shouted Peter Baker, the captain at the time, as my headset fell off due to the rotation of the airplane caused by a tail well strike. What had happened was the tail had hit the runway and the flight ended up rotating too far, subsequently damaging the exhaust engine! That was definitely a memorable experience. Nonetheless, the flight was a success!
What was it like to fly on the Concorde?
Looking back now, you don’t realise how much of a pioneering aircraft the Concorde truly was. This even extends beyond the engineering of the airliner itself, but also the family dynamic and bond those of us working on the Concorde maintained throughout our careers. We were all extremely close and had immense satisfaction in what we were doing. My team in particular were extremely proud of our achievements.
A particular highlight of mine and my team’s career was during a flight from Bahrain to Singapore, where we took off an hour after the 747, yet got back to Singapore 2 hours before it did. The 747 captain asked if we were the same Concorde plane. My response, “You don’t need a wrist watch you need a calendar”.
The Concorde has had such a profound effect on my life that I even have memorabilia all over the house. I am also a Coordinator of the Concorde Flight Test Association which has now sadly gone quiet. It was such a special aircraft that everyone who has flown on it can appreciate its magnificence.
Did you ever see the curvature of the earth on the Concorde?
Yes! Of course.
Where did you go on the Concorde? How long did it take you?
I have flown to an extensive list of places on the Concorde. For example, places like Johannesburg, which took on average 9 hours to get to. I have also flown all around the Middle East – which took about 3 and half hours. This really puts into perspective how fast the airliner was when your standard commercial flight now takes around 16h and 20m (including stops) from London to Johannesburg.
What do you think led to the demise of the Concorde?
The crash in Paris didn’t help – but should never have happened. The French decided they didn’t want to carry on because of an engine problem back from the States but they forgot to turn off the fuel bell and realised they had to go down somewhere quickly. I believe this was a real catalyst for the decommissioning of the aircraft.
Also, after 28 years of service, the Concorde contained what we now deem as old technology. This meant the Concorde was due inspections, which was a large expense that the government did not want to pay.
Were there any challenges as a result of developing the aircraft in conjunction with the French (i.e., language barriers?)
There were generally no complications. Although we measured in inches they measured in metrics there were no particular challenges, as aforementioned, we were one big family!
Why was Concorde G-AXDN (101) such a special aircraft?
The Concorde G-AXDN was a piece of art, a “mechanical swan” is probably the best way to describe it.
On a more technical level, the concorde G-AXDN was a complex engineering system that was ahead of its time. Indeed, the engine did most of the air intake work. A Rolls Royce engine can only take air into itself at 500 mph, whereas the Concorde flies at 1400 mile an hour, so you have to slow the air down. This was done in about 12 ft difference, utilising the intake doors, rams and ramps to balance the shock waves to 500mph. Each engine had to be catered for, which was a highly complicated system. If it all went wrong, the intake system failed which caused surges – spitting air back out again, which wasn’t particularly nice. To rectify this, it was a case of getting on computers and experts doing their work on it.
So as you can imagine, it was a multiplex system that required careful and meticulous engineering!
Have you got any stories about the remarkable people who made the Concorde story one of a kind?
Claim to fame: I have flown in formation with Douglas Bader and Raymon Baxter – a fairfoot to casablanca. My main task was to look after Douglous Bader who said to me, “if I fall base over apex, bloody well leave me alone”. After the flight, I shook him by the hand and he thanked me for my work. I have also had the privilege of flying with Princess Margaret and various kings and queens.
When I was in the Middle East, the Concorde flew various sheikhs as well. A noticeable thing happened during one of my flights. Firstly, the aircraft steps were too short so I created a wooden extension so that the Sheikhs could seamlessly dismount the plane. However, when I opened the aircraft door, I knocked the extension off. For our flight homebound, I also tripped over one of the sheikhs attire and caught him, next minute his security had a knife against my throat – a very memorable experience to say the least!
On a lighter note, during one of my many times flying on the Concorde, one of the pilot’s stressed to us all that we would by flying Princess Anne. He stipulated that we must address her as her majesty, proceeded with ‘mam’. The captain then proceeds to go up to Princess Anne and greet her with a very formal ‘Hello your majesty’, she responds, “hey up Dock how’s it hanging today?”.
With an absence from the skies forever, you can now own an iconic piece of aviation memorabilia which represents the heyday of supersonic flying.
We have developed and produced in collaboration with the Duxford Aviation Society (DAS), limited edition cufflinks, which have been cast from the air intake assembly of Concorde 101 (G AXDN) – the fastest ever example of this majestic aircraft type. T.
Limited to a worldwide production of 4,500 cufflink sets, they have been individually laser etched with the Concordes registration number and the highest ever recorded Concorde speed of 1450 mph, achieved by the aircraft these cufflinks are cast from.
Whether you are part of the Concorde G AXDN’s history, or just an admirer of the fastest commercial flight to grace the skies, our Concorde G-AXDN cufflinks are the perfect sentimental gift that will last a lifetime.
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