A Red Arrows pilot whose jet was badly damaged in a bird strike has been recognised for his flying skills and safely landing the aircraft.
The glass in the cockpit canopy was smashed in the incident – sending shards and bird remains inside the jet, impacting Squadron Leader Gregor Ogston on the head.
Despite the noise and force of the wind making external communication impossible, Red 6’s years of experience and training kicked-in and he calmly landed the aircraft in an impressive display of airmanship.
His actions have now been acknowledged with the presentation of the Royal Air Force’s highest safety award.
Sqn Ldr Ogston, who was leader of the team’s dynamic Synchro Pair routine, said: “Although awarded to me personally, it reflects on everyone at the Red Arrows who played a role in achieving a safe outcome that day.”
It was during the second half of a display at Rhyl in August last year when a large bird struck the right-hand side of the canopy, which shattered immediately.
The impact of the shards of glass and remains displaced the visor on Sqn Ldr Ogston’s flying helmet and severed a connector of his oxygen mask, which fell loose. The significant wind blast prevented external communication.
At this stage, the Synchro Pair were seconds from crossing one another, head-on, and with incredible presence of mind, Red 6 maintained his heading and height. This ensured a safe cross, at which point he eased away from the ground and kept the throttle in a fixed position to protect the engine.
Calmly and professionally, he carried out a pre-briefed ‘escape’ manoeuvre, flying his aircraft away and towards a recovery at a nominated airfield. Following a low-speed handling check to assess the potential for airframe damage, he subsequently flew a flawless, fixed power, straight-in approach in highly stressful circumstances to land safely.
In recognition of Sqn Ldr Ogston’s action’s, he has been awarded a Green Endorsement – the Royal Air Force Safety Centre’s highest accolade.
It was presented by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, during a visit to RAF Waddington, the new Lincolnshire home of the Red Arrows.
On receipt of the award, Sqn Ldr Ogston said: “I am incredibly grateful to receive a Green Endorsement following my bird strike at the Rhyl Air Show.
“Thanks to extensive emergency scenario training and well-rehearsed procedures I was able to recover the aircraft quickly and safely to Hawarden airport.
I am particularly thankful to Red 7, Flight Lieutenant James Turner, who escorted me to the airfield and to the air traffic controllers and emergency services at Hawarden for their quick response and assistance during the emergency.”
Last month’s culmination of the 2022 display season also marked the end of Sqn Ldr Ogston’s four-year tour with the Red Arrows, which has seen him represent the RAF and the UK in 23 countries.
Highlights included an 11-week tour of North America in 2019, several displays around mainland Europe, flypasts over London – such as that celebrating HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – and, more recently, a visit to the Gulf region and Egypt, which he describes was capped off “perfectly” with a flypast over the Giza pyramids.
On the ground, he has had the privilege of meeting thousands of people at hundreds of airshows, events and other engagements.
Sqn Ldr Ogston, who flew the Harrier and Typhoon before coming to the Red Arrows, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who follows and interacts with the team either in-person at airshows, at STEM and ground engagements or on social media.
“We aim to inspire at the Red Arrows but, in turn, we are inspired by those who support us – it drives us to put on the very best flying displays and flypasts.”
Sqn Ldr Ogston is looking forward to his new role at the RAF Central Flying School, where he will be instructing ab-initio fast-jet pilots and flying instructors on the Hawk T2 and Texan T1, helping to train the next generation of RAF fighter pilots.