London 2012: Red Arrows' flypasts to 'symbolically link' UK

The Red Arrows
Image caption The flypasts will be in the famous Big Battle formation

The Red Arrows will fly over Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London to celebrate the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

The team, based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, will return to flying with nine aircraft for the flypasts.

The team has been learning to fly as a seven for the 2012 season following the departure of its first female pilot.

The flypasts will be in the famous Big Battle formation which is used for important ceremonies.

Richard Baker, a photographer who produced the book Red Arrows after spending nine months with the team, said the chosen formation would be fitting for the occasion.

'British statement'

"It's their famous flypast formation shape," he said.

"They put on their red, white and blue smoke so it's a streak of red, white and blue as an arrow coming towards you.

"It's a very British statement of who they are and what they stand for."

Two of the Red Arrows died last year.

Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, was killed at the end an air show in Dorset and Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed when he was ejected from his plane while on the ground at RAF Scampton.

The team's first female pilot then moved to a ground-based role earlier this year.

The team started learning to fly with seven aircraft, rather than eight, because the formations are more balanced as an odd number.

The Olympic flypasts will take place on 27 July before the opening ceremony begins. Organisers said it would symbolically link the whole of the United Kingdom.

Sqn Ldr Jim Turner, officer commanding the Red Arrows, said: "The Red Arrows are honoured to have been invited to take part in the London 2012 Olympic Games celebrations to represent both the Royal Air Force and the very best of British.

"My whole squadron, pilots and ground support staff alike, share the pride and privilege of being part of such a special occasion."

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