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

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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