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UK Armed Forces aircraft take part in rehearsal before King's Coronation Flypast

Aircraft from across the UK Armed Forces soared over RAF College Cranwell today in a rehearsal for Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s Coronation Flypast that will take place over Buckingham Palace on Saturday 6 May 2023.

The Royal Air Force, British Army and Royal Navy were all represented as over 30 aircraft took to the skies to practice the formations which will form part of the Coronation celebrations. The full flypast will see over 60 aircraft, including the iconic Red Arrows and historic Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, put on a spectacular show over London.

"It is a great honour to be part of His Majesty the King’s Coronation, where the Flypast is an opportunity to showcase Tri-Service aviation excellence to our Commander-in-Chief, on this very special occasion.

While the full spectacle will not be unveiled until the Coronation, the practice with more limited aircraft numbers is an ideal opportunity to review the Flypast from a safety and execution perspective, while making sure that the timing, spacing, and the broad structure of the Flypast is visually appropriate for His Majesty the King’s Coronation on the 6 May."

Air Vice-Marshal Mark Flewin,
Air Officer Commanding No.1 Group

The formation today flew over RAF Cranwell’s iconic College Hall, which stood in for Buckingham Palace. The first aircraft to fly over College Hall, a Juno HT1 from RAF Shawbury, did so at 14:30 BST and the full display was reviewed by Air Vice-Marshal Mark Flewin, the Air Officer Commanding the Royal Air Force’s No.1 Group.

Watching on from the ground was 93-year-old RAF veteran Squadron Leader (retd) Terrence Devey Smith who flew in Her Late Majesty the Queen’s Coronation 70 years ago.  At the time of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, Terrance was a 23-year-old RAF Flying Officer flying the Meteor 8 with 56 Squadron.

Squadron Leader (retd) Terrence Devey Smith with Officer Commanding 56 Squadron.

On 2 June 1953, Terrence was requested by his Wing Commander to take a magazine photographer on the Coronation Flypast. Due to his position in the formation, he switched from his Meteor 8 to a dual-seater Meteor 7 to capture the Squadron in formation with Buckingham Palace in the background.

"I was honoured to have been a part of the historic flypast, paying tribute to our Queen back on 2 June 1953. It was never just about the aeroplanes, ground crews or the pilots, it was and still is, about the spirit of service and dedication that drives us to do what we do. To serve our country. To honour our King.

As pilots, we know that our actions can affect the course of history, and have the power to inspire others, and today, 70 years on from my last coronation, we hope to inspire a new generation to reach for the skies and guide us all to achieve our dreams."

Squadron Leader (retd) Terrence Devey Smith

Wing Commander Noel Rees, Officer Commanding 6 Squadron, who is the flypast’s Mission Commander said:

“We are very proud to be able to showcase our capabilities to our Commander-in-Chief, on this historic occasion for His Majesty The King. We have planned a fitting and appropriate tribute for the new monarch, that should be a true spectacle for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth."

The flypast on Saturday 6 May 2023 will follow the King’s Coronation Parade, a major display of military pageantry involving Armed Forces from across the Commonwealth and the British Overseas Territories, and all Services of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, alongside The Sovereign’s Bodyguard and Royal Watermen.

The first aircraft to fly over Buckingham Palace, a Juno HT1 from RAF Shawbury, will be piloted by RAF Flight Lieutenant Tom Knapp. He said:

"The flypast rehearsal today went really well. We made our time on target over the top of College Hall which was standing in as Buckingham Palace. It’s great to see months of planning and detailed coordination between all the different aircraft which fly at different speeds starting to come together. I feel hugely privileged and excited to get to fly over the Palace for The King on this momentous occasion."

The Armed Forces coronation flypast will take place over The Mall and Buckingham Palace at 14:30 BST on Saturday 6 May 2023 subject to weather, serviceability, and operational commitments.