Interest

The Red Arrows – Origins of the World’s Greatest Aerobatic Display Team

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
  • Gloster Meteors
  • Hawker Hunters
  • English Electric Lightnings
  • BAC Jet Provosts
  • Folland Gnats

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’.

Official Teams

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!

  • Official Red Arrows Bracelet
    Official Red Arrows Bracelet
    £45.00
  • Red Arrows Box Set reclaimed aluminium
    Official Red Arrows Ultimate Gift Set
    £184.99
  • RAF Red Arrows Cufflinks made from Hawk T1 aluminium
    Official Red Arrows Cufflinks
    £134.99
  • Red Arrows Cufflink Gift Set made from Hawk T1 Aluminium
    Official Red Arrows Cufflinks Gift Set
    £169.99
  • Red Arrows Hawk T1 Mini Model in reclaimed aluminium
    Official Red Arrows Mini Model
    £54.99
New Products

G-CIVY: The last BA 747 to depart London Heathrow

 – why her story isn’t quite over –

Final Departure from Heathrow

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.

Heathrow, United Kingdom – August 03 2019: British Airways Boeing 747-436 registration G-CIVY, flight number BA217 departs Heathrow airport en route to Washington seen from Myrtle Avenue

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.

747-400 facts

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.

747 436 British Airways Boeing GCIVY
747 436 British Airways Boeing GCIVY

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.

  • 747 436 British Airways Boeing GCIVY Cufflinks
    747-436 G-CIVY Mini Model
    £54.99
  • 747 436 British Airways Boeing GCIVY Cufflinks
    747-436 G-CIVY Cufflinks
    £134.99

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.

New Products

New and Exclusive GR1 ZA326 Bracelets

Tornado GR1 ZA326 Bracelets: Military Gifts for Men and Women

Looking for the perfect military gift, suitable for both men and women? 

Icarus Originals is proud to present our brand new and exclusive Tornado GR1 ZA326 Bracelets. 

Created in partnership with the Panavia Tornado Preservation Group (PTPG), Icarus Originals has designed a truly unique aviation cord bracelet featuring a stylised Tornado secured upon a ZA326 ‘raspberry ripple’ paracord strap. 

True to our form, this piece of jewellery holds a much greater piece of history. This striking design is made from the genuine airframe aluminum recovered from ZA326 during her renovation by the PTPG, and is “the perfect high-flying accessory” for those aviation enthusiasts out there. It is truly a bespoke and unique product that will double up as the perfect sentimental or military gift for both men and women! 

The history of the ZA326 

What is the Panavia Tornado? 

The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing multirole combat aircraft, jointly developed and manufactured by Italy, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. 

This aircraft has had a significant impact in a range of modern wars, most notably the gulf war 1991; where its role was integral in conducting many low-altitude penetrating strike missions.

On March 14th, 2019, we said goodbye to the last official flight by the Tornado in British service. 

The Royal Air force has marked the end of an era and formally retired the very last of the Panavia Tornado combat jets. After 40 incredible years in service, this aircraft is giving way to the next generation of aviation models – but its memory as a pivotal part of British air combat capabilities lives on, through the medium of education, preservation, and now as a special and sentimental gift. 

About the Panavia Tornado Preservation Group 

The Panavia Tornado Preservation Group is the only organisation in the world dedicated to preserving the Panavia Tornado. This charity comprises volunteers who are product owners of a unique Tornado GR.1P aircraft. 

Their work involves two main areas: education and preservation. Their goal is to save as much of the Tornado story as possible, to educate future generations about its magnificence for them to ultimately enjoy. The PTPG all maintain a genuine passion for STEM education, utilising this aircraft to inspire the next engineers and aviators of the future. Their work is particularly close to our hearts here at Icarus Originals, with both Alan and John’s engineering background and ties to the aviation industry. 

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