A RED Arrows aircraft has taken off from the team’s historic home of RAF Scampton for the final time.
The jet departed from the well-known Lincolnshire airbase as part of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team’s move to a new Station.
RAF Scampton is closing, with the Red Arrows having already relocated to nearby RAF Waddington – where the aircraft landed following its short transit across the county.
Although the majority of the Red Arrows’ fleet, equipment and personnel had moved to their new base in recent weeks and are now operating from there, one final jet remained to be transferred after completion of engineering work.
Wing Commander Neill Atkins, Station Commander of RAF Scampton, said: “This is both an historic and a somewhat emotional moment for us at Royal Air Force Scampton. The Red Arrows have been based here since 1983, which makes them one of the longest-resident flying units in the Station’s history.
“We wish the team all the very best for their future, operating from their new home at RAF Waddington and we are all sure they will continue to go from strength-to-strength as fantastic ambassadors for both the Royal Air Force and the nation.
“While we will dearly miss being the team’s home, we are excited to know that they will continue to train in the skies of Lincolnshire.”
The final Red Arrows jet to take off from RAF Scampton was an aircraft with registration number XX323 – one of the team’s BAE Systems Hawk T1As, with its distinctive Union-flag tailfin livery.
It departed, on Wednesday, from runway 04 at the Lincolnshire base, whose history predates the RAF itself having first being opened in 1916 as Air Station Brattleby Cliff.
Over the last century, RAF Scampton has played a key role in many important and decisive aspects of UK air power, from being the original home of 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – during the Second World War to becoming a base for nuclear-armed Avro Vulcan bombers during the Cold War.
In the 1980s, the Central Flying School headed to the Station, bringing the Red Arrows with it, while more recently it was a location for part of the country’s Air Surveillance and Control System.
Wing Commander David Montenegro, Officer Commanding of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “The Red Arrows have been only one chapter in RAF Scampton’s very long history. However, our beloved Station has been a huge chapter in our history after moving from RAF Kemble in 1983.
“With a small interlude at RAFC Cranwell in the mid-1990s, Scampton has been our home for 35 years. As the last RAF squadron to operate from Scampton, taking off from the runway for the final time was a poignant moment.
“We offer sincere thanks to the local community and Station staff who have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to generations of team personnel and their families.”
During the period of the Red Arrows being based at RAF Scampton, it has played host to countless high-profile moments helping to promote the work of the Royal Air Force, its people and story.
This has spanned live news and breakfast show broadcasts, television documentaries and programmes, even including the semi-final of cooking competition Masterchef that involved two temporary kitchens being built alongside the aircraft parking slots and lunch prepared for the entire Red Arrows team.
A British Airways Boeing 747-400 also landed at RAF Scampton in the 1990s, as part of a link-up with the BBC and other local media to fly children and in support of charities and coinciding also with a Songs of Praise episode being filmed at the Station.
In 2013, world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton made full use of RAF Scampton’s 9,000ft-long runway, driving his Mercedes Formula One car along it in a sequence filmed ahead of the British Grand Prix just days later – seen by millions of viewers from across the globe.
However, it was the almost daily visits by cadets, school children, young people and aviation enthusiasts that have perhaps been the most inspiring of all these opportunities and which will provide the longest of legacies.
Wg Cdr Montenegro said: “Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have visited the Red Arrows at Scampton – for many their first steps on an RAF base.
Scampton has offered our visitors an immersive and personal experience of RAF life and I am sure will remain close to the hearts of all of those who have watched us go about our daily working routine.
“We take off into our next chapter at RAF Waddington. Thankfully, we stay close to the city of Lincoln and remain in the region that has supported us so enthusiastically and devotedly throughout the years.”
For more information on the Red Arrows, follow @rafredarrows on Twitter, like the team’s Facebook page at RAF Red Arrows, view pictures on Instagram @rafredarrows or visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds