Nearly six weeks into a tour of North America, the Red Arrows landed 12 Hawk T1 jets Monday morning at Peterson Air Force Base, arriving in formation and trailing white smoke.

The 11-week tour is the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team’s most extensive visit ever to the United States and Canada — and its first since 2008. The tour is “aimed at promoting the best of British and supporting a range of UK interests across trade, business, education and defence,” the team’s website says.

Besides demonstrating skills at air shows, the team is “also here to engage on the ground, and that’s something we’re doing here in Colorado Springs today,” said Flight Lt. Dan Lowes, standing near the planes in a red jumpsuit soon after landing. The pilots wear red, and the team engineers wear blue.

After landing, the team boarded a bus to the Air Force Academy, where they met with cadets.

“We’re going to meet them, and we are going to engage, not only on a personal level to see how they are as officers and see what they’re up to — clearly, they have inspiring careers ahead of them — but we’re also going to engage to show what our (United Kingdom) relationship is (with the U.S.),” Lowes said.

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“Most guys on our team have been fighter pilots in the Air Force now for about 15 to 20 years … and most us have engaged or been involved in joint coalition exercises and operations with the United States Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Navy and supporting in the U.S. Army on the ground.”

The Red Arrows were to conduct a flypast over the academy Tuesday. They will stay on the Front Range until Wednesday, with commitments in the Denver area including participation in Denver Startup Week.

The planes, painted a distinctive red with a white stripe along the side and British flag on the tail, are two-seat training aircraft powered by a Rolls-Royce engine. The Red Arrows typically fly in a diamond-shaped formation of nine, and spare planes were brought along for the lengthy tour.

The Red Arrows are the UK’s version of the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, well-known American flight demonstration teams.

“Our policy and our principles are the same,” Lowes said. But the Red Arrows’ planes are older and in some ways less sophisticated.

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A member of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team inspects the BAE Systems’ Hawk T1 jet Monday at Peterson Air Force Base in east Colorado Springs. The team will continue its tour of North America with a two-day visit to Denver after a brief stop in Colorado Springs. (Parker Seibold/The Gazette)

The “amazing” planes were “glistening away in the sun here because our maintainers look after them so well,” he said.

But, “They were designed in the late ’50s, built in the ’60s, and they were flown in our Air Force since the late ’60s, early ’70s. So they are old airplanes compared to the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, who, albeit their airframes might be quite old, but the technology in those aircraft and the power that they have is much more than this. Our aircraft, and the way in which we design our display, means that we have to think about how to fly them in a slightly different way because we can run out of energy from it quite quickly.

“Landing here today, 6,000 feet high up, that was something we really had to consider before we made an approach.”

The planes nonetheless are an example of “great British engineering,” Lowes said.

“It’s a beautiful aircraft for what we need it to do. Clearly being training aircraft and designed for young, inexperienced pilots to fly, so therefore, it has quite a big envelope. We describe that as docile, which means she won’t bite you too quickly, which means as an experienced pilot, you can really push this aircraft to its limits.”

Ellie is a general assignment reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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