Meet the three new pilots ready to fly for the Red Arrows in 2017

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Three new pilots have joined the RAF Red Arrows in time for the 2017 display season.

Flight Lieutenants Toby Keeley, Dan Lowes and Chris Lyndon-Smith have already started perfecting their manoeuvres to show off to audiences in the UK and the rest of the world.

The RAF Scampton-based nine-ship are expected to begin their displays from May.

‘Keen to inspire young people’

Chris Lyndon-Smith returns to the Reds after completing a successful tour from 2011 to 2013.

Born and raised in Africa, he moved to the UK when he was 10 and was selected to fly fast-jets following his elementary flying training with the RAF.

The 36-year-old said: “I’ve always really enjoyed formation flying so clearly that really appealed to me. I was also very keen to help inspire young people to join the RAF and be able to demonstrate the excellence of the UK’s armed forces.

“Formation flying is a key skill for any RAF frontline pilot. This is evident in so many ways, for example air-to-air refuelling, tactical formation, or landing as a formation in bad weather. However, the Red Arrows allow pilots to fly manoeuvres in formation, which are never flown on the frontline.

“To have the opportunity to return to the team is incredible and I’m looking forward to challenge myself daily in the pure handling of the aircraft.

“I am very proud of what we do. I like to think that the Red Arrows represent the wider armed forces community, demonstrating teamwork, professionalism and hard work.”

‘A childhood ambition’

Toby Keeley, 34, who was raised in Eastbourne, said becoming part of the Red Arrows team is an opportunity he has been working towards since an early age.

The Solent University graduate – who will fly as Red 2 this year – said: “Joining the Red Arrows has been a childhood ambition ever since I first watched them display at my home airshow.

“I am immensely proud to be selected for the team and am very much looking forward to earning the coveted red flying suit following the months of training to come.”

“There are many aspects about the Red Arrows that inspired me to apply, however the precision formation aerobatic flying that the Reds perform is the pinnacle in terms of pure flying and for me, the best type of flying there is.”

‘Encouraged to follow my dream’

Hong Kong born Dan Lowes, 31, said the constant pursuit of excellence and global reputation for the highest standards first attracted him to the idea of flying with the Red Arrows.

His RAF experience dating back to 2004 includes frontline tours to the Falkland Islands, as well as exercises in Malaysia and India.

He has also been posted to 6 Squadron at RAF Leuchars where he operated in the Quick Reaction Alert role, securing the skies of the UK.

Flight Lieutenant Lowes, who will fly as Red 3 in 2017, said: “I wanted to be a pilot from a very early age. My father was a former RAF pilot and my mother was a nurse who served in the RAF, so I was always encouraged to follow my dream.

“I’m looking forward to the training in the coming months.

“The skills and requirements are similar to what is expected in other fast-jet roles – just as we would work up to fly operationally, we will now be preparing and working hard for a busy and demanding display season in 2017.”

The new recruits will succeed those pilots who finished their tours with the Red Arrows at the end of the 2016 season – Flight Lieutenants Steve Morris, Stew Campbell and Joe Hourston.

Other key appointments to the team are Squadron Leader Rich Bland – the Red Arrows’ Senior Engineering Officer, responsible for the technical and engineering operations of the Squadron.

Flight Lieutenant Alicia Mason joins as Junior Engineering Officer, looking after all day-to-day engineering aspects of the Squadron and also flying in the rear seat of Red 1’s jet as Circus 1 – the small team of on-the-road technicians who service the jets when away from RAF Scampton.

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