Red Arrows pilot Sqn Ldr Jon Bond is preparing to take part in a major flypast above Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Jubilee (Picture: Red Arrows)
A Red Arrows pilot has revealed that ‘never in a million years’ did he think he would take to the skies for today’s Diamond Jubilee flypast 1,000ft over Buckingham Palace.
Sqn Ldr Jon Bond is preparing for a ‘pinch yourself moment’ in the trademark ‘battle’ formation as the world-famous team joins a spectacular display of around 70 aircraft over the Mall.
Sqn Ldr Bond used to gaze up at the Reds as a schoolboy playing on fields in Essex – but never envisaged joining the aerial daredevils and flying on such a momentous occasion.
He also revealed that the pilots will take their skilled engineers along with them in the Hawk T1 jets for what the ground crews should enjoy as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The team is due to be the centrepiece of the Jubilee flight as the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth II, gather on the balcony to watch the flypast shortly after 1pm.
The Reds are scheduled to head over London in their first UK appearance of 2022 as they set out on a whistlestop schedule, which comes after their displays were curtailed by the pandemic over the past two years.
Taking off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, they are due to join the back of an aircraft ‘train’ above Suffolk, heading over Essex and into the capital at 300 knots, or around 340mph.
All but one of the nine fast jets will have a ‘Circus’ engineer – who are each designated to a specific pilot – in the back, with the other seat being taken by a photographer.
The Red Arrows have a new show including a formation honouring the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (Picture: Red Arrows)
Sqn Ldr Bond told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s a total privilege for us to take part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
‘While we have done flypasts including the RAF100 and we celebrate the Queen’s birthday every year with a flypast this is the first time we have been over Buckingham Palace since 2019.
‘Not only is it a momentous occasion with the Jubilee but it’s also great for us to fly over London again after a bit of a miserable two years.
‘To be part of a big formation of around 70 aircraft from the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force and with the Royal Family being such big supporters of the military as well, it’s a real privilege.
‘I think for the new pilots on the team this is going to be a flypast they will remember for a long time in their careers.
‘For our engineers, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them to fly over Buckingham Palace.
‘We are looking forward to it and it will be an immense privilege to celebrate an amazing 70 years of Her Majesty on the throne.’
Red Arrows pilot Sqn Ldr Jon Bond will take his place in the formation over Buckingham Palace and the Mall (Picture: Red Arrows)
Sqn Ldr Bond, 37, is due to fly on the right-hand side of the Arrows’ ‘9-ship’ formation and to send a plume of red smoke over central London.
The former Typhoon pilot will take his position as Red 6 in a career he never envisaged as a teenager born and brought up in Essex, from where he could see the Reds’ annual displays for the Queen’s birthday.
After attending Chigwell School, he went on to Loughborough University before joining the RAF and active service around the world, including tours in the Gulf, mainland Europe and North America.
The Red Arrows are embarking on their busiest domestic season for four years as they return to a full schedule (Picture: Red Arrows)
Sqn Ldr Bond said: ‘I could remember as a kid at school on the playing fields you would have the train of aircraft fly over or very close to where I was and never in a million years did I think that that would be me in 20-odd years’ time. Even going into sixth form and my university years I would have thought people were mad if they said I would be doing this.
‘It’s one of those pinch yourself moments whenever we do flypasts, especially when we fly over places like Buckingham Palace and for incredible people such as Her Majesty. It’s a total honour and a privilege.’
Spitfires and Hurricanes from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight are also expected to be part of the six-minute airborne parade later today.
The Red Arrows leave their trademark contrails as they practise for an action-packed 2022 season in Greek skies (Picture: Red Arrows)
Jubilee salutes by the Reds also include a new formation to honour the Queen’s extraordinary 70-year reign. The ‘Jubilee Present’ will be displayed at air shows as the Reds mark their busiest domestic season for four years.
A new, 25-minute show is set to light up the skies at the Midland Air Festival this evening, with the team performing synchronised, large shape aerobatics before the pilots break off into more dynamic sequences.
The team is scheduled to display with seven jets in Alcester, Warwickshire, arriving and refuelling after the flypast over the Mall.
All of the team has previously flown frontline RAF aircraft such as the Tornado and Typhoon before climbing into the BAE Systems Hawk T1 jets and most will return to active service.
The pilots are backed up by a 110-strong support team, known as the Blues because of the colour of their overalls, who include engineers, drivers, suppliers and other personnel.
The symbolic display comes at the outset of the four-day bank holiday weekend to mark the Queen’s unprecedented 70 years on the throne.
The Red Arrows will set off from the Wash in East Anglia and make their way southwest (Picture: Getty Images)
The monarch, 96, is expected to appear on the balcony after the Jubilee celebrations open with events including the Queen’s birthday parade, known as Trooping the Colour, and a Royal Gun Salute across the country.
‘We are essentially global ambassadors representing the best of the British military, its excellence and the country’s economic prosperity,’ Sqn Ldr Bond said. ‘We fly with the Union Jack painted on our tails and obviously we have the red, white and blue smoke.
‘So to put the flag and the smoke over London on such a patriotic occasion as the Platinum Jubilee I think will make a lot of people very pleased and proud as the country joins the celebrations in honour of Her Majesty.’
For more information about the flypast route, see our guide