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MilitaryI am Red 1, Team Leader of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows – AMA!

Feb 9th 2016 by RAF_Red1 • 34 Questions • 4158 Points

I’m Squadron Leader David Montenegro, Team Leader and pilot with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. I lead nine fast-jets, performing aerobatics in displays around the world. This is my second year as Red 1, following operational tours with the Royal Air Force previously in my career, flying the Tornado aircraft. The Red Arrows are currently training hard and preparing for a busy season, which will see the team complete precision displays across the UK and overseas. We hope to inspire people through our teamwork and constant pursuit of excellence. This is my first AMA. Go for it!

Proof: http://www.raf.mod.uk/news/archive/red-1-says-ask-me-anything-09022016

EDIT: Hey reddit that was great fun with some brilliant questions. Look forward to doing another reddit in the very near future. For now, smoke off go.

Q:

Which Tornado variant did you fly?

A:

I flew the Tornado F3 and enjoyed it immensely. It has now been replaced by the Typhoon which continues to secure our skies 24/7.


Q:

Any quirks of the Tornado that you loved/hated whilst flying?

A:

The Tornado F3 was very good at what it was designed to be, an interceptor - she was very fast! The Tornado GR4 is still going strong within the Royal Air Force and is able to deliver a vast array of weapons and has been continuously deployed on operations around the world for over a decade


Q:

Do you ever recreate the dialogue from the end of Star Wars Episode IV?

"Red Five standing by."

"Red Eleven standing by."

"Red Four standing by."

A:

Ha! We don't but, as an aside, we're based at RAF Scampton which was where the Dambusters launched from for their famous mission in May 1943. George Lucas perhaps took some Star Wars inspiration from the Dambusters film - have a look here! http://youtu.be/lNdb03Hw18M


Q:

Hi David,

I'm currently applying for a job in the RAF as an aircraft avionics technician. Do you know the technicians that service your aircraft and all of the other team members?

I live in Lincolnshire and often see RAF planes flying from the stations nearby, it's awe inspiring and I love the Red Arrows, thanks for doing what you do

A:

The Red Arrows support staff are known as The Blues (they wear blue coveralls as opposed to the pilots' red ones). The Blues showcase a variety of the ground trades within the Royal Air Force and, as a relatively small team of 120 personnel, we are close knit. We work closely with all of the Blues on a day-to-day basis and value immensely the hard work they put in to ensure the team's success


Q:

How does it feel to be in the cockpit when breaking the sound barrier?

A:

I broke the sound barrier numerous times in the Tornado F3 and the transition was very smooth - just a small nudge was felt as we went through M1.0


Q:

Hi David. You had a great first display season as Red 1, although hampered by the weather. Do you feel more relaxed as Red 1 going into your second year, or do you feel the additional pressure of now having to meet / exceed the display you choreographed last year?

A:

Best question so far! I don't feel any additional pressure going into my second year as Red 1 but we have changed the show choreography in order give the spectator a new experience every year. We hope you enjoy the 2016 show.


Q:

What's your favorite arerobatic move you've ever performed?

A:

Flying the Heart will always be my favourite.


Q:

This is gold leader, do you copy?

A:

Loud and clear Gold Leader.


Q:

Currently live in Lincoln... is there a practice schedule anywhere? Would be cool to pop up to the Scampton area and have a watch.

A:

We practice almost every day during the autumn and winter months at RAF Scampton, flying several times a day Monday-to-Friday. Obviously this depends on the weather and other factors. So, it's best keeping an eye on our website for updates.


Q:

I have seen you guys perform almost every year for the past ten years at the Eastbourne Airshow (Airbourne). One thing that I've always wondered is why wouldn't certain aircraft break the sound barrier at these events even though they are very capable of doing so. Surely, a sonic boom would be a very thrilling experience for the crowd. Are there any specific regulations preventing them from doing as such? Look forward to seeing you guys again in August.

A:

There are indeed regulations regarding going supersonic. Aircraft can only do so 10 miles off the coast. Approval to go supersonic over land will only be granted in certain specific operational circumstances.


Q:

Always a question that has intrigued me albeit slightly rude. Are you and your team classed as standard RAF pilots and therefore in a similar pay grade or due to the demanding tours, sponsorship and training are you in a higher grade?

A:

All military pilots are on the same pay scales which are determined by rank. We don't get any extra!


Q:

Hello David

What would be something unexpected that the Red Arrows do? Be it preparation, little individual things, rituals, what have you.

Thanks for doing the AMA!

A:

When we brief and debrief our performances, we refer to each other only by Red Arrows number. This enables us to be non-personal when communicating direct analysis and maintains a professional environment. As soon as we leave the debrief room we are back to first name terms.


Q:

Hi David, I am soon to apply to be a pilot in the RAF. I understand that pilot is a popular position. I already know the basic information from the RAF website, but is there any advice you could give me involving the recruitment process? Is it challenging? Becoming a pilot in the RAF would be my dream career!

A:

I can honestly say that it is a amazing career. To help you in the interview have a good knowledge of current affairs and have an appreciation of the work that the RAF does around the world. It is a challenging process - it took me two attempts so don't give up!


Q:

Hi David! Why do you think what you do is important? I'm not trying to be cheeky, but you're an advanced pilot that could be leading missions to help with national security yet you choose to be an exhibition flyer, essentially to entertain the masses. I love watching air shows and I've always been curious as to why a pilot would choose that path. edit: a word

A:

With much of the RAF's hard work being achieved out-of-sight to the general public, the Red Arrows provide a perfect platform to communicate to you all. Not only do we represent our highly skilled service colleagues, but when flying further afield, we represent all UK national interests, in defence and industry. The most fulfilling part of being a Red Arrow is engaging with the UK's young people by providing a tangible demonstration of what teamwork can achieve.


Q:

Oh wow! You guys are amazing.

Do you ever get sent out to just completely dick around with the Russian Bears that bee-line for us? Like instead of sending the armed jets up to escort them away, next time, 6 red arrows just circling them at stupidly close distances, and creating Union Jacks in front of them..... I mean... Union Jacks when the cameras are looking, and maybe a giant smoke cock and balls in their path when they aren't.

Actually if this isnt what happens you need to rectify that now.

A:

Our Typhoon force does a great job securing our skies, we will leave the intercepts to them.


Q:

Hi David, Thanks for taking the time to do this. Can you provide any insight as to the selection process for the Red Arrows and how often the roster changes? Thanks.

A:

We recruit 2 or 3 new team pilots every year. Applicants to join the team must have a minimum of 1500 flying hours and have completed at least one front line tour. We shortlist around 9 individuals and complete a 6 day selection process, consisting of a flying test, formal interviews and peer group assessment.


Q:

What are your thoughts on the F-35?

A:

To establish control of the air in the forseeable future, the F35 is a game-changer. The Royal Air Force is extremely excited about bringing the platform into operational service.


Q:

Hi David! I was wondering, what are the usual G-forces like during your shows? What's the most you've experienced?

A:

We can pull up to +8G in our aircraft and some of the pilots do so during our displays. Most of our 9-ship formation manoeuvres are flown at 3-4G. We undergo High-G training in a centrifuge and have to sustain 9G for 15 seconds in that!


Q:

Could you really destroy the death star by just shooting a laser down that hole in it ?

A:

We would not recommend a laser for this task, but instead utilise the force of a Proton Torpedo.


Q:

Do you have a call sign other than "Red 1," and if so, how did you obtain it?

A:

My nickname is Monty - as is typical to military nicknaming convention, add a 'y' to the first syllable of my surname


Q:

How the BAE Hawk performance compares against planes used by other aerobatic teams like the ones used by the Frecce Tricolori, Patrulla Aguila o Patrouille Francaise?

A:

They are all rather similar in performance as they all have similar training roles. One difference is that the Patrouille de France's jets have 2 engines


Q:

David, what is your favorite airplane of all time?

A:

That's an easy one - Concorde! Beauty, speed and technological achievement.


Q:

Do you ever wish you could trade flying a Tornado for flying other aircraft such as Super Hornets or Eagles?

A:

The Tornado was a great aircraft to fly, but I would love to fly as many fighter aircraft as possible. I would love to land a Super Hornet onto a ship, and look forward to landing the F-35 onto a British aircraft carrier soon.


Q:

Hello sir, welcome to Reddit! I got to see you guys at Biggin Hill Airshow helping out last year with the RAF Air Cadets and it was truly awesome.

What sort of pilots license is required for aerobatic flying? Thanks!

A:

Biggin Hill - what a place! Red 10 is from there and I lived just down the road in Beckenham. We don't actually have a licence as such to fly military aircraft like our civilian aerobatic counterparts have. You can actually fly aerobatics on a Private Pilots' Licence with the right endorsement.


Q:

Red Arrows vs Blue Angels, who wins? ;)

A:

We never compete in formation aerobatics as our shows are vastly different, but I will leave this judgement for the spectator to decide.


Q:

Can I have a job? :D

A:

What qualities would you bring to a high performance team?


Q:

Which airshow are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

A:

Difficult one to answer as all the 80+ displays we fly every year have their unique challenges. I particularly enjoy displaying at the regional coastal shows as we can see hundreds of thousands of spectators watching us represent our service. Also, representing the UK at some large global shows brings us a huge amount of fulfilment.


Q:

Would you say a Reds tour takes more of a toll on personal life compared to any other type of tour?

A:

A Reds tour is very demanding but we meticlulously plan our year to ensure a well balanced personal life, as it is definitely the key to performance success.


Q:

How many years is a tour of duty with the Reds?

A:

Each of the pilots normally completes 3 display seasons with the Red Arrows. They then usually go back to frontline squadrons or to training roles


Q:

How is Scampton as a camp, for technicians and lineys is there still plenty of work to do if not on the circus? And do you have a favourite posting from throughout your career?

A:

We're a close-knit team of about 120 people - whether technicians (including the Circus engineers), administrators, drivers, suppliers or pilots, each section is busy at RAF Scampton making sure the Red Arrows perform across the UK and overseas.


Q:

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a pilot?

A:

Around the age of 7. I am very lucky to have achieved my dream job.


Q:

During EFT I understand pilots are streamed to FJ, Rot or ME based on a number of factors but what would you say gave you the edge?

A:

Preparation is always the key to success. I worked really hard on making sure that I was ready to respond to all eventualities in the air which really helped my decision making on the test sorties.


Q:

Do the demonstration skills / teamwork learned translate to combat and vs versa?

A:

Very much so. All Red Arrows pilots have front line experience, so the teamwork and professional ethos on the team directly represents the pursuit of excellence on operational and training squadrons. Our output might be different to normal RAF squadrons, but the way we go about our business is identical.


Q:

What's your view on the privatisation of your group? (This is what we were told by our Town Council as for being the reason that there wouldn't be a read arrows display last summer)

A:

The Red Arrows have not been privatised. We are a Royal Air Force unit