Royal Air Force Red Arrows Announce Initial Schedule For 2019 US And Canada Tour

Royal Air Force Red Arrows - AirshowStuff

The Royal Air Force Red Arrows have released an initial schedule for their highly anticipated 2019 North American Tour!

This is the first visit by the Reds since 2008, when they made several appearances during a short stint in the US and Canada.

The Reds will cross paths with the North American display teams several times; the US Navy Blue Angels in Chicago, New York, and St Louis; the US Air Force Thunderbirds in Atlantic City, and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds in Toronto and Huntington Beach.

The last time a European jet team toured the US and Canada was in 2017, when France’s Patrouille de France came over in March through early May. During that visit, they performed a number of displays and flyovers and stopped at the home bases of both the Blue Angels (NAS Pensacola, FL) and Thunderbirds (Nellis AFB, NV) for photo ops and knowledge exchanges. They even managed to squeeze in a massive photo flight with the Canadian Snowbirds.

Here is the initial schedule as announced today. The release notes that additional appearances will be announced at a later date, so make sure to keep an eye out here for updates and on our airshow calendar for an extensive list of airshows and aviation events, plus other major schedules all listed in one place! You can also check our forums for discussion on the schedule and shows! We also hope you’ll share your own photos and videos of the Reds performances!

RAF Red Arrows 2019 US and Canada Tour Schedule

August 13: Gatineau, QC
August 17-18: 61st Chicago Air and Water Show – Chicago, IL
August 21: Thunder Over the Boardwalk – Atlantic City, NJ
August 24-25: New York Air Show – New Windsor, NY
August 31-September 1: Canadian International Airshow – Toronto, ON

September 7-8: Spirit of St. Louis Air Show & STEM Expo – St. Louis, MO
September 20-22: Oregon International Air Show – Hillsboro, OR

October 4-6: The Great Pacific Airshow – Huntington Beach, CA

Here is the full press release released today, emphasis ours:

A list of locations where people can see the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team display during a major tour of North America has been released.

The confirmed displays include appearances by the Red Arrows in Canada and on both the east and west coasts of the United States, with more events expected to be announced in the weeks to come.

Speaking from Nellis Air Base, Nevada, UK Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:

“I am delighted people all over the US and Canada will be able to see our world-famous Red Arrows in action.

“Previous tours have generated huge amounts of investment for the UK, and we hope the team lighting up the skies of two of our closest defence allies will bring more of the same.”

The team will fly to North America for the Western Hawk 19 tour this summer, expecting to arrive in Canada on August 8.

The display locations in Canada and the US where the Red Arrows are confirmed as performing in 2019.
Display locations confirmed for the forthcoming tour to North America by the Red Arrows.
During the deployment – which will be the largest to the region in a generation – the Red Arrows will help to support a range of British interests and promote trade and cooperation, as part of the United Kingdom’s prosperity agenda.

As well as displaying at locations and shows across North America, the team will also attend several engagements on the ground, coordinated by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the UK Government’s GREAT campaign.

The first locations being confirmed for where the Red Arrows will display are:

RAF Red Arrows 2019 North American Tour - AirshowStuff

Ottawa – Gatineau-Ottawa Airshow
Chicago – Air and Water Show
Atlantic City – Thunder Over The Boardwalk
New York – New York Airshow, Stewart International
Toronto – Canadian International Airshow
St. Louis – Spirit of St. Louis Airshow & STEM Expo
Portland-Hillsboro – The Oregon International Airshow
Los Angeles (Huntington Beach) – The Great Pacific Airshow
Other public events, display locations and flypasts are still to be set, with engagement opportunities planned from coast-to-coast. Further announcements will follow as confirmations are made.

The Red Arrows are renowned as one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams, having performed almost 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965.

Flying nine BAE Systems Hawk fast-jets, the team showcases the excellence of the Royal Air Force and demonstrates the global reach and capability of the Service, together with representing the best of British at home and overseas.

Previous tours by the Red Arrows, including to the Middle and Far East, have helped generate important investment and sales for the UK across a range of sectors.

UK International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:

“The Red Arrows have a rich tradition of working with the GREAT Britain Campaign and DIT to promote trade, investment, tourism and education, all while presenting a positive impression of the UK.

“Their tour of North America will provide an invaluable opportunity to deepen the partnership with some of our closest allies and trading partners.

“It will include an integrated programme of trade missions and business engagement, involving both the display team and ground crew, and build on the experience of previous tours to provide even stronger support for our business objectives.”

A visually-exciting display is promised by the Red Arrows during a tour to North America.

Preparations are already being carried out to create a memorable and visually-exciting display to be enjoyed by people watching throughout the latest deployment.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Red 1 and Team Leader of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said:

“Confirming this initial group of display locations where we will perform in North America is not just exciting for those people hoping to attend these events – but also for the whole Red Arrows team as well.

“Air and ground crews are now hard at work, preparing the display which will be seen by audiences in the UK, US and Canada this summer, while detailed planning is well underway to carefully, and safely, plot our overseas tour.

With these airshows announced, we can now join friends and fans alike in visualising what people will be able to enjoy when the Red Arrows make our biggest ever visit to the US and Canada. – Red 1

“However, the air display is only half the story – much of our activity in support of UK interests overseas is centred on considerable ground engagement. As a team, we are particularly enthusiastic about meeting so many individuals, from business leaders and military counterparts to young people and airshow crowds.”

After displaying at the Royal International Air Tattoo, between July 19 and July 21, in the UK, the Red Arrows will undertake a short period of maintenance and preparation before departing for North America.

Flying With The Canadian Forces Snowbirds

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

I have always been a fan of the Canadian Snowbirds. When I was just getting into airshows, their spectacular bursts were unlike anything I had seen before. As I became more familiar with the industry, their large formation rolls where they pull over the top while pointing right at the crowd stuck out as even more unique. And when I eventually earned my pilot’s certificate and spent some time at formation clinics, I found myself astonished by the difficulty of their many different nine-plane formations.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffCanadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

To this day, the Snowbirds are my absolute favorite airshow performance to watch, and one of the very few that I make sure to see at least once a year. One could say I feel a special connection to the team; they feature prominently in my most powerful airshow memories, and just hearing some of the songs they’ve flown to will bring goosebumps to my arms in an instant.

All of this is to say: when Snowbirds Public Affairs Officer Lt. Michèle Tremblay contacted AirshowStuff last month to talk about a media ride, it was more than just a cool opportunity. The catch was that I would have to get from Michigan to the Oregon International Airshow in Hillsboro, Oregon. Thankfully, the logistics were straight forward and less than two weeks later, I was descending past Mt. Hood on my way into Portland.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds, also known as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, have been Canada’s national display team since the 1970s. The team is based at CFB Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan, and travels across North America each year performing for millions of spectators. Their show season usually begins in May and runs through October. They make a number of visits to the US each year, usually in the spring and fall.

I actually beat the team to Hillsboro, and watched the #10 and #11 jets – the advance party – arrive in the Thursday afternoon sun. We got my quick medical check out of the way before the main group of nine jets arrived. The team’s support hauler, a specially-outfitted semi-trailer truck, was already in place. The truck brings all sorts of equipment for the team, including tools, spare parts, bicycles, a Gator four wheeler, and space for luggage that doesn’t fit into the relatively small CT-114 Tutor aircraft.

I knew that the team had performed on the East Coast (Virginia Beach, VA) the weekend before, and we heard how the Canadian Army driver had driven the truck all the way from there to the team’s home base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan for a short three hour stop to reload before finishing the cross country journey. I was thankful for my airline ticket just thinking about it.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
The Snowbirds perform in nine Canadair CT-114 Tutor aircraft. The Canadian-designed and -built Tutor first flew in 1960 and served as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s primary jet trainer until 2000. Two other Tutors, flown by the team coordinators, travel with the team as spares. Because each aircraft is a two-seater, the team’s technicians fly from show to show along with the pilots. Although the age of the jets is a common point of discussion among airshow fans, the team plans to operate them until at least 2030.

The rest of the team arrived with a nine ship flyby, and after a quick debriefing I was told to report the next morning for ejection seat training(!) and other preparations.

The big day arrived, and the four media riders went straight into learning the complex steps required to strap in, and the even more complex steps required to eject or evacuate on the ground. We grabbed flight suits, and were fitted for helmets, oxygen masks, life preservers, and parachutes by the helpful (and patient) technicians.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

Once we were all set, we went straight to the briefing room to meet the rest of the team and go over the details of the flight. As a dedicated media opportunity, the team was forgoing their typical Friday practice and instead planned a transit flight just for us. We would take off and head north, then turn west and follow the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, OR. After a flyby there, we would turn south and fly along the coast before turning inland and returning to Hillsboro. Upon arriving back at the airfield the team would perform a site survey to familiarize themselves with the showline and then land.

Unfortunately, the FAA rep at the show incorrectly but adamantly stated that aerobatics could not be performed with passengers. The team grumbled but accepted it. The rest of the briefing covered the weather (clear skies, unlimited visibility), air traffic control, divert airports, and other such details that well-prepared pilots pay attention to. I would be flying with Snowbird #4, Maj. Stephen “Pup” Melanson in the First Line Astern position, right behind the “Boss”.

Outside, we were introduced to the aircraft technicians who would be helping us strap in. Cameras were readied, and soon it was time to mount up. All of our prepared gear was waiting for us, and my awesome (and again, patient) tech Cpl. Brandon Harvey made sure to catch all of the steps I missed. In my defense, when you’re covered in straps and handles that turn on oxygen or deploy a parachute, you tend to double check what you’re pulling!

Pup joined me in the small side-by-side cockpit, and talked me through the startup procedure once all of the pilots had checked in. The jets lined up on the runway in three groups of three, with #6 and #7 on our wings as the middle group. Pup explained the sequence as we rolled down the runway together and all nine aircraft worked to form up on our northbound leg.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff
Flying smaller aircraft allows the team to operate out of smaller airports than the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. This helps them reach many smaller cities and towns across Canada’s rural regions. The team frequently performs self-contained Wednesday evening shows in towns that don’t feature a full airshow. They strive to inspire the audience, share the many opportunities available to men and women in the Canadian military, and demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork behind their aviation excellence. During their trips to the US, the team acts as ambassadors for Canada and highlights the long friendship between the two countries.

The scenery was breathtaking. In the clear afternoon air, we could easily see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Rainier in the distance while haze filled the valleys below us. The team went through a couple of formation changes as Pup explained the spacing and alignments. Although we didn’t really move around ourselves, the #4 position gave me a great view of the other aircraft moving around on both sides of us. The changes were far more sudden and crisp than other formation flights I’ve been on, but at the same time controlled and smooth. I wouldn’t expect any different from some of the world’s best!

With smoke on, we gave a big sweeping flyover to the citizens of Longview, WA as we turned west. Each aircraft dropped into trail as we descended toward the river, which for the Snowbirds means a follow-the-leader line of nine jets, each with the freedom to maneuver as needed. Pup, knowing I fly, handed me the controls and let me slalom behind the pack ahead of us as we wound down the river. The controls were responsive but not touchy. I felt right at home and I can understand why the aging jet is still perfect for formation displays. The coolest part of the entire flight was when I pulled us into a turn and blasted right through the smoke trail of #3, bobbling slightly as we crossed his wake.

Sadly, my part only lasted a few minutes before we were called to rejoin – a maneuver that included a few violent whips and the hardest G of the flight, probably around 4 or 5. That was the tame version, Pup explained to me; the rejoins during the scripted show are even quicker and tighter.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Cockpit Cam - AirshowStuff

Back in formation, we did two flybys over Astoria, including a low pass down the runway there before proceeding south along the coast. This was another dose of beautiful scenery, with big bluffs and rocky islands as far down the shoreline as the eye could see. Boss put us into a big 360 degree turn right over Tillamook Rock so that the pilots on each side of the formation could take in the view while also staring at his jet.

We continued a little further south, with a couple more formation changes thrown in. The ocean fell behind us as we climbed up over the hills of the Tillamook State Forest – a bad place to eject, Pup pointed out to me. The team dropped back into trail, and descended into Hillsboro as a line of white dots against the evergreens. The site survey was a quick four passes over the airport, then Pup whipped us back into formation again for a final Big Diamond flyby. The team separated into three groups of three again, and set down smoothly on the runway. Our techs marshaled us into position, perfectly spaced and lined up. My Snowbirds flight had come to an end.

Flying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuffFlying with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - AirshowStuff

I’m forever grateful to the team for the opportunity to join them and I give special thanks again to Lt. Michèle Tremblay, Maj. Stephen Melanson, and Cpl. Brandon Harvey for their help. If you missed it above, make sure you check out the video of my Snowbird flight!

– Ryan Sundheimer

The Snowbirds have wrapped up their 2018 season, but I highly encourage you to make plans for one of their shows once the 2019 schedule is released in early December. You will be able to find that right here on the AirshowStuff blog, or in our forums.