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Interview with Red Arrows pilot Olly Parr

PUBLISHED: 16:02 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 16:02 25 April 2014

Olly Parr, Red Arrow

Olly Parr, Red Arrow


In celebration of their 50th display season we caught up with Red 4, Olly Parr, to find out what it is like being a part of one of the most recognised symbols of Great Britain

How long have you been flying with the Red Arrows and how did it come about?

I’m now in my second year with the team. It came about because, as a serving Officer and frontline pilot in the RAF, I became eligible to apply. It was a lifelong dream so I’ve been very lucky to be selected to represent the RAF and UK Armed Forces in this role.

Describe what it feels like when you’re loop the looping through the sky, any nerves?

Well it’s actually an exercise in fierce concentration, and plenty of sweat! We don’t really get too much of an adrenaline rush as we’ve rehearsed so much, but what we’re doing takes a lot of precision and safety is the number one priority. We can’t relax until we’re landed but then you do get a sense of euphoria. Nerves don’t really play a part however big the crowd, although you do feel it a little when you know friends and family are in the crowd.

What is your favourite manoeuvre and why?

I actually love performing the Big Battle arrival loop followed by the 9-ship roll in front of the crowd. It’s impressive to watch, there’s plenty of noise, and if the sun is shining I think it’s spectacular. I can also get a rare glimpse of the crowd through all the other aircraft as we roll.

How did you become a pilot?

I always wanted a career in aviation and also the military. With that in mind I joined the RAF at the very end of 1999 and passed the initial selection testing for pilots. It then takes three years of hard work and numerous flying courses before you’re ready to take on a frontline flying role. Pilots are continuously assessed throughout this period and many don’t make the grade so the pressure is always on.

What does it take to join the Red Arrows?

In short you need to have 1500 hours of fast jet flying under your belt and be graded as above the average before you can apply. Most will have had at least one operational tour completed as well. All the applicants are then sifted and vetted by the current team, and a shortlist of candidates is then selected for an eight day job interview. These candidates are interviewed, given a flying test and introduced to some of the other roles that team members will have to take on. There’s plenty of social, as we want to see how they can’t fit in to a high pressure team environment.

What number ‘Red’ are you and what position do you fly?

I’m currently Red 4. Within the 20 minute show we perform numerous aerobatic manoeuvres in a wide variety of shapes so my actual position is constantly changing. However, as a rough guide, even numbers sit on the right hand side of the boss and odd numbers on the left.

You’ll be taking part in Bournemouth Air Festival this year, what are you most looking forward to about the event?

I loved displaying at Bournemouth last year. The sun always shines (jinx) and the huge friendly crowds were really appreciative. The team will always have a close bond with the Bournemouth Air Festival, as will I.

And what can spectators expect to see?

Hopefully a 20 minute show up to our usual standards! There a few new manoeuvres that should keep people entertained from last year.

When you’re not whizzing through the sky, what’s your favourite way to relax?

I love music and to play the drums - it helps me unwind. I also love to watch and play sport, travel wherever I can and dabble in a bit of photography. But when not doing any of that I can be found indulging in a passion for good wine - although never before flying!

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