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Solo to Red in one easy move

Flt Lt Dave ‘Horse’ Davies has gone straight from solo Hawk display pilot to the Red Arrows in consecutive seasons. spoke with him at RAF Waddington about his jet-set life.


Red Arrows in action at Waddington's International Airshow 2009. Key - Gary Parsons

Born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, Dave joined the Royal Air Force in 1998 and was selected for fast jet training, doing his Advanced Flying Training Course in Canada and eventually being streamed onto the Tornado F3 with 111 Squadron at Leuchars. He spent time on detachment in the Falklands and has experience on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), chasing both airliners and Ilyushin Mays.

Flt Lt Dave Davies, 2008 Hawk display pilot. Key - Gary Parsons
"The F3 is a fantastic plane - it's a shame it's going out of service in a couple of years,” said Dave. “I love it.” 2008 was his final year of a three-year stint as instructor with 208(R) Squadron, and he wanted to finish on a high, volunteering for the display slot. "I'm not married, have no kids, so I was a good candidate!" It was rumoured that 2008 may have been the last year for the solo Hawk due to financial constraints, and Dave was determined to show the aircraft to its best. "There's only so many manoeuvres you can do in the Hawk,” he said – “you want to keep the display tight, you want to show off the performance but it's not particularly loud compared to Typhoon; however, you try and make it as noisy as possible!" Midway through in the season, Dave was selected to join the Red Arrows for the 2009 season at the first time of trying, so he will still be doing the job in three years' time!

2008 display Hawk T1 XX325. Key - Gary Parsons
So what had been the biggest change in moving from solo display to a team environment? “I’d say there’s no similarities between display flying and formation flying, other than I’m flying the Hawk! It’s like starting again afresh - the formation flying is different to what we would normally do day to day in the military. In normal military flying, formation is visual, whereas with the Red Arrows it’s all done on voice commands.” Was stepping straight from one Hawk to another different-coloured one an advantage compared to the other new team-mates? “Being a Hawk Qualified Flying Instructor and so very familiar with the aircraft was a big help - the other new guys had been Hawk QFIs in the past, but not so recently, so I had initially a small advantage, but other than that there was no advantage - I would like to think there was, but no, there isn’t.”

Flt Lt Dave Davies, Red 4! Key - Gary Parsons
Does knowing the airshow scene help in any way? “Yes, going to events and knowing what’s coming up, what the display committee looks for, the crowd lines and all that sort of stuff, all that’s familiar to me. Formation flying, doing aerobatics is something that we don’t do in the military very often, whereas I’m familiar with being upside down at 500 feet – although we’re down to 300 feet in this display!

“I’m flying in the number four slot - the even numbers are on the right hand side and odd numbers down the left - as you look down on the diamond, I’m furthest out on the right. Six and seven are the synchro guys - if you look at the diamond, they sit behind the boss. In the work up, until we get to a nine-ship, the synchro guys have developed their own display, whereas we’re working as a seven-ship. We put it all together about February.”

Red 4, Flt Lt Dave Davies, is on the left in this image. Key - Gary Parsons
The 2010 team is already known, and will include for the first time a female pilot – Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore – so have slots already been allocated? “The team for next year is chosen prior to us going out to Jersey, where we have an evening event and the positions of the two new guys, as well as the rest of the team are decided. Only set slots are the Boss, as obviously he’s going to be number one, and number six, as the synchro deputy will become the synchro lead. The rest is a lottery!” Do they have a say in it? “No, there’s no say in it at all. Generally the left hand side will stay on the left hand side, because of rolling left and rolling right, and then you’ve got the synchro lead, who’ll pick his deputy. I think most of us would like that position, but he picks it and we’ve got no influence on who he picks, but I’d certainly like to get number seven.”

As Red 4, Dave flies with the 'Enid' formation - in this image the team have split with the synchro pair. Key - Gary Parsons
Looking further beyond the three-year stint, what’s next for Dave? “If you took me back to before the 2008 season I thought I was going back up to Leuchars, and with the F3 finishing the chances of going onto Typhoon were very slim. I even thought maybe I’d be leaving the air force, I didn’t know what my future was, but now I’ve got a three-year cushion to let everything settle down with Typhoon and F3 departing, so we’ll wait and see!”

Filed Under Airshows Features.


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