A Summer of Syncronized Airshows over England

In commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain,  Eighteen World War II fighter planes took to the skies over the United Kingdom in a spectacular explosion of sound and color.

The performance was a representation of what within the military is called a ‘scramble’ – the method of getting aircraft in-flight as fast as possible in reaction to a threat. These synchronized performances are what’s technically referred to as a ‘Balbo’.

It was an emotional salute in light of the fact that one of the planes, a Spitfire, was actually used in action in the Battle of Britain. It flew alongside a Typhoon Fighter jet and several RAF Hurricanes.

Furthermore, for squadron leader Dunc Mason, who choreographed the sequence, it was a particularly poignant moment as this was his last year as the boss of the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight.

It seems it’s the summer for synchronized shows in England. Elsewhere, a crowd in Gloucestershire was being dazzled by a full display of the Red Arrows piloting prowess as they flew in formation over the Royal International Air Tattoo.

The Red Arrows performed the show that has made them the most celebrated aerobatic team in in the entire world, showing off their trademark techniques such as the Carousel and Champagne Split, as well as the Heart and Spear.

When the Red Arrows perform, their iconic smoke trails blaze across the sky in patriotic red, white and blue. The colors are created by mixing dye with diesel and infusing it into the hot exhaust from the jet engine. In contrast, the vapour trails emitted by the aircraft are used for the sole purpose of permitting pilots to be able to calculate wind direction and speed while they are performing – there is no room for error mid-air.

The team’s meticulously-choreographed routines have been entertaining audiences for over 50 years, but it is not all fun and games. The jets tear through the sky at a nauseating 450 mph with a meager 6 feet between them. If that wasn’t enough to deter even the bravest of pilots, the environment is so challenging and puts their bodies under so much stress that the pilots are forced to wear Anti-G suits which stop them from blacking out in mid-air.

Gaining a prestigious position as a Red Arrow pilot seems almost impossible – if you weren’t already deterred by the danger then you may well be put off by the demanding prerequisites for joining the RAF. Only two positions are available each year and candidates are expected to already be accomplished pilots with exceptional talent, to have logged 1,500 hours flying minimum, and to have completed at least one front-line military tour, the Mail Online reports.

It’s a high-octane, high-risk and high-reward job.

You can find out more about the RAF and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight by tuning into the documentary Britain’s Ultimate Pilots: Inside the RAF which is premiering now on BBC.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE