Red Arrows pilots reveal flying secrets to DMU Aeronautical Engineering students

Not many student engineers get a chance to quiz the top pilots in the country and sit in the cockpit of a Red Arrows jet, but 10 lucky ones from De Montfort University, Leicester (DMU) did just that.

DMU Aeronautical Engineering students at the Red Arrows base, RAF Waddington 

All in their final year in Aeronautical Engineering, the DMU students met members of the famous Red Arrows aerobatic display team in what they described as a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ when they were invited to RAF Waddington, Lincoln to watch the Arrows Team.

As well as seeing a performance of the team’s routine practice display, they attended two de-briefing sessions with five of the pilots and sampled what it was like to actually sit at the controls of a Red Arrows’ BAE Systems Hawk T1 jet.

The students spent five hours on the visit to the base recently and were thrilled to ply the ace pilots with a host of questions on their exceptional role leading the world’s aerobatic displays. Questions such as what it is like to fly just six feet apart in formation and details of their disciplined training came thick and fast from the students.

The group captivated by a Red Arrows Technical Specialist


As engineers, the group also wanted to know more about the super jets and how they worked, besides learning about all the intricate controls and design features.

“This was a ‘once in a lifetime experience for our students’,” said Dr Hobina Rajakaruna, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at DMU and course leader of the BEng/MEng Aeronautical Engineering course.

“We were lucky enough to be invited to such a special opportunity. Our group was taken to a hangar and a technical specialist showed us one of the Arrows’ aircraft being repaired. He explained the components of the aircraft to our students, talked about the repairs being carried out on the aircraft and allowed all of the students to sample what it was like to sit in the cockpit.”

Student Kiran in the cockpit of a Red Arrows jet

“It was the best day of my life,” said 23-year-oldstudent Kiran Kousar, after meeting the legendary pilots. “I absolutely loved the experience, especially getting in the cockpit of the plane where these fantastic pilots sit every day.

“We had five Red Arrows pilots talking to us in a question and answer session. They revealed details about their manoeuvres, where they travelled in recent years, how the famous colourful smoke the planes emit is made with strongly dyed diesel, and how they got on to the programme to become Red Arrows.”

Kiran, from Blackburn, Lancashire, who was the only female in the select group of 10 from DMU, said that she had especially enjoyed the discussion with the pilots about their aircraft engines. “They told us they thought the next generation of engineers - like us - would be able fix some of the technical problems they encountered,” she said.

Christian, another DMU student, enjoying his turn in the cockpit

The DMU group enthused about the Red Arrows visit, with student Christian Bunalade adding that it was the best trip he had ever had.

“It was an amazing experience,” the 22-year-old student from London said. “What particularly struck me on the day was how the Red Arrows still managed to operate 40-year-old aircraft, the Hawk T1 jets, to do aerobatic manoeuvres. And they said they would probably continue flying them for another 10 to 15 years. Plenty of work for us engineers!”

As well as the thrill of meeting the pilots, there was a special bonus on the day for Kiran. “I had a calendar with me and I asked the Red Arrows to sign it,” she said. “I wanted to give it to my mother for Mother’s Day and left it with the team to sign during the day.

“All of them signed it and they wrote their signatures in the famous Red Arrows diamond nine shape. My mum will be thrilled.”

Both Kiran and Christian chose DMU for their studies as they were impressed with the up-to-date structure of the modules. Kiran said: “I’m glad I chose DMU - it has offered me a great course, plus opportunities to go on amazing trips like this.”


Posted on Thursday 23rd March 2023

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