Lord of the flies

Sunday Express - - REVEALING INSIDE LOOK AT THE RED ARROWS TEAM - By David Stephen­son

WHEN you’re a mem­ber of the Red Ar­rows one tiny mis­take could end in tragedy.

So for a squadron leader like Martin Pert there’s ex­tra pres­sure and responsibility, es­pe­cially when the big boss, as the Queen is known, is watch­ing.

His pin­point voice com­mands ini­ti­ate ev­ery move in their breath­tak­ing dis­plays. One stray in­struc­tion could send a Hawk jet spi­ralling into dis­as­ter in front of thou­sands of fans.

“We can’t crash in se­cret,” said Pert, 38, who stars in a re­veal­ing new doc­u­men­tary Red Ar­rows: Kings Of The Skies on Chan­nel 5 ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

He said: “We need eight miles of airspace and 6,000ft, so it’s dif­fi­cult to hide.”

The pub­lic na­ture of the role of squadron leader “sur­prised” Pert when he took over a year ago. “You re­alise just how pub­lic it is,” said Pert. “We will be in train­ing [at RAF Scamp­ton] and in half an hour there will be pho­tog­ra­phers and fans at the gate. They will watch ev­ery move.”

He doesn’t feel any ex­tra bur­den now he’s squadron leader after a spell pre­vi­ously at the Red Ar­rows as Red 2, 4 and 8 be­tween 2012-14.

“There is a bit of la­tent pres­sure,” he said, “to get things right ev­ery time and with the pre­ci­sion and tim­ing the pub­lic ex­pect. It goes with the job and that goes with all mil­i­tary fly­ing.

“But with me in the lead, there’s just that ex­tra stress on my shoul­ders to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time at

READY TO FLY: Squadron Leader Pert and his dis­play team line up on the run­way

those high-pro­file events you’d ex­pect to see us at, like Troop­ing the Colour, or the RAF 100 Fly­past.”

Pert, who has two young chil­dren, was born in Scot­land but grew up by Leaves­den Aero­drome in Hert­ford­shire. He dreamt of be­ing a Red Ar­rows pilot from the age of six after watch­ing them fly near his home.

There’s a good rea­son, said “Red One”, as he’s now called, why voice com­mands are used. “Of­ten peo­ple are sur­prised to find it’s all voice ini­ti­ated. The guys who come to this team as ex­pe­ri­enced mil­i­tary pi­lots have only ever flown for­ma­tion on see­ing the other air­craft move, and they move in con­cert with that. Here we’re try­ing for this grace­ful, el­e­gant dis­play like we’re all welded to­gether by voice com­mand. As I’m mak­ing those com­mands, the guys are putting in dif­fer­ent in­puts at dif­fer­ent times to make us look like it’s at the same time.”

He’s not even able to clear his throat and has to avoid coughs and colds. “There’s only one of me and no un­der­study. If I’m not fit to fly than the Red Ar­rows won’t fly.”

Red Ar­rows: Kings Of The Skies, Chan­nel 5, Wed­nes­day 9pm.

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