Red Arrows return to skies above RAF Scampton in vibrant riot of colour ahead of their 56th season2 min read


Joining the Red Arrows is the pinnacle of many a pilot’s career – but the job also carries high risks. 

The fatal crash in March 2018 that killed engineer Corporal Jonathan Bayliss was the first major incident since 2011, when two members died. 

Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, after being accidentally ejected from his Hawk T1 while he conducted pre-flight safety checks as his plane was on the ground.

Sean Cunningham was accidentally ejected from his Hawk T1 while conducting pre-flight safety checks on the ground

Jon Egging died after crashing at the Bournemouth Air Festival

Red Arrows pilots Sean Cunningham (left), 35, and Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging (both), 33, both died in separate accidents in 2011

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The South-African officer, who grew up in Coventry, was thrown 300ft and his parachute failed to deploy during the incident on November 8, 2011.

An inquest heard he was ejected because of a problem with the ejection seat firing handle, which had been pulled into an unsafe position by accident.

The ejector seat’s makers, Martin-Baker Aircraft Ltd, was previously fined £1.1 million at Lincoln Crown Court after admitting to breaching safety laws in relation to Flt Lt Cunningham’s death.

Three months earlier, Flt Lt Egging, 33, died after crashing at the Bournemouth Air Festival.

An inquest heard he may have succumbed to G-force impairment before attempting to correct his course in the moments before the impact.

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Bournemouth coroner Sheriff Payne recorded a verdict of accidental death.

An earlier service inquiry, led by Wing Commander Mark Rodden, concluded the crash was ‘most likely’ caused by ‘A-loc’ – where G-force caused an almost total loss of consciousness due to G-force.

Prior to 2018, there are 15 other reported crashes involving Red Arrows since 1969, which have involved 10 fatalities.

The first death, in 1969, involved a pilot flying into trees while practising.

In the worst tragedy to hit the display team, Flt Lt Euan Perreaux, Flt Lt John Lewis, Flt Lt John Haddock and Flt Lt Colin Armstrong were killed when two Gnat aircraft collided mid-air at RAF Kemble, Gloucestershire, in 1971.

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Two more pilots were killed in 1978 and another in 1988. But there were no more fatalities until the 2011 deaths.

The aircraft which crashed in 2018 is a BAE Hawk TA1. The two-seat training aircraft replaced the Folland Gnat in 1979.

It had a modified engine and used diesel mixed with dye to produce red, white or blue smoke.