It is certainly not every day that the world-famous Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team carry out a fly-past to celebrate a building you have just designed and constructed.
But that is what happened when they took to the skies as part of a training flight at RAF Waddington.
The Red Arrows staged a fly-past over RAF Waddington to celebrate the opening of a new £3.6m facility to help prepare the aircraft for the team’s exciting displays.
Eight of the iconic Hawk T1A jets flew over their home station to mark the opening of the new Dye Bay facility, built on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) by VIVO Defence Services and Henry Brothers Construction.
The facility, which is next to RAF Waddington’s runway, formed part of a pre-planned aerobatic training flight at their home base on Thursday.
The 260m2 facility is the first of its type built to enable an aerial display team to carry out the critical maintenance required on the aircraft’s dye pods. It features a purpose-built plant to create the famous red, white and blue plumes, cleaning and washdown areas, a maintenance workspace, storage for spare parts and office space.
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, formed in 1964, recently completed its move from RAF Scampton, in Lincolnshire, to nearby RAF Waddington.
Wing Commander Adam Collins, Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “Colourful smoke trails are a vibrant feature of displays and flypasts by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The trails have an important flight safety role too. They allow the pilots to judge wind speed and direction and to locate other aircraft when different sections of the team’s formation are several miles apart.
“Responsible for replenishing the Red Arrows’ smoke pods are two dedicated dye teams. Working to tight timescales, these engineers ensure the red, white and blue trails look the part when Red 1 calls ‘Smoke on, go!’.
“The official opening of the new dye bay marks a step change in the quality of infrastructure and working environment for dye team personnel. The new bespoke facility allows the critical processes of smoke-pod maintenance and servicing to take place in better surroundings, increasing efficiency and safety.
“The project is a real team achievement between VIVO, Anderson Green, Henry Brothers, DIO and RAF Waddington Works Services and ensures that the Red Arrows’ signature red, white and blue trails will delight and inspire global audiences for years to come.”
Adell Vass, DIO Regional Delivery Central Region Head, added: “The Red Arrows are such a beloved element of our national identity that to provide support to their 2023 Display Season, on their relocation to RAF Waddington is to be celebrated. This team came together, to successfully deliver both a temporary and permanent complex Dye Bay solution, at short notice and to tight timescales. The collaboration and engagement by all parties was key to this success and I am very proud of their achievements.”
VIVO Defence Services acted as the Principal Designer and Contractor on the £3.6m project and Henry Brothers were contracted to carry out the construction. Other members of the team included lead designers Anderson Green, whose team included CBP Architects, civil and structural engineer Hexa and Fuels consultants BPS Ltd.
Jerry Moloney, VIVO Managing Director, said: “Everybody loves the Red Arrows and to be able to watch them carry out a fly-past over something your organisation has been involved in is just incredible.
“We at VIVO led the construction of this building with a number of partners and the Red Arrows are so pleased with what has been produced they wanted to mark the occasion in this way, that is amazing and well done to everyone involved.”
Ian Taylor, Henry Brothers Construction Managing Director, added: “The Red Arrows are famous around the world, and we were very excited to have been appointed to build a maintenance facility at the new home of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. The dye pod facility is absolutely crucial in helping the display team to create the famous plumes that we see in the air when the Red Arrows perform their amazing aerobatics.
“Henry Brothers has strong links with RAF Waddington, having worked on several different schemes at the base, and we are proud to have supported the Red Arrows in the team’s next chapter, helping them to continue to provide the breath-taking air displays that they are renowned for.”
As the new home of the Red Arrows, RAF Waddington will receive further investment under the Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) AIR Programme. The project will deliver refurbishment and modernisation of over 8000 m2 of existing infrastructure including space for aircraft parking and runway access as well as maintenance capabilities, a refurbished aircraft hangar and office space.
Plans also include new, modern Single Living Accommodation (SLA) to replace the existing life-expired accommodation as part of a wider scheme to deliver replacement SLA across a number of projects. The uplift in facilities will see about 150 additional personnel operating from the site once complete.