Captivating the Skies: Ollie Suckling’s Adventure as a Red Arrows Pilot

…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.

Fulfilling a Childhood Dream: From Enthralled Spectator to Red Arrows Pilot


When Ollie Suckling was eight years old, he attended an air show near his home in York and witnessed the captivating performance of the Red Arrows.

Little did he know that almost three decades later, he would become a pilot for this esteemed aerial display team.

The Wales Airshow and Ollie’s Role as Red 4 As the Wales Airshow makes its highly anticipated return, Ollie finds himself sitting in the cockpit of Red 4, ready to provide a spectacular display for the tens of thousands of spectators along Swansea beach and the promenade.


The Red Arrows team, including Ollie, is prepared to showcase their skills and maneuvers throughout the event.

Insights from Ollie on the Red Arrows Selection Process Prior to becoming a Red Arrow pilot, Ollie accumulated years of experience flying fast jets, surpassing the stringent qualifications required for consideration.

Prospective pilots must demonstrate extensive frontline flying experience, leadership abilities, and an “above average” rating in their flying skills.

Ollie sheds light on the arduous application process, involving comprehensive reviews by existing pilots and superiors.

The top candidates are then invited to a rigorous week-long training program in Greece.


Training and Formation Building Ollie describes the progressive training approach used by the Red Arrows.

Initially, the team begins with three aircraft, gradually incorporating additional planes to build formations.

They start with basic turns and advance to more intricate maneuvers, such as loops and barrel rolls.

The training culminates in perfecting the closest shape, the Arrow, where aircraft fly just six feet apart.

Showcasing the Red Arrows’ Performances At the Wales Airshow, spectators can expect to witness the iconic Arrow shape and several other captivating formations performed by the Red Arrows.


Ollie shares details about the routines they have mastered, which are tailored to weather conditions.

The team performs the full routine on clear days, featuring numerous loops and rolls.

In unfavorable weather, they showcase the rolling routine with barrel rolls instead of loops, while low cloud conditions call for the flat routine, omitting loops and barrel rolls.

Additionally, the second half of the display includes dynamic sections, such as forming a heart with an impressive spear-through-the-heart finale.

The Support Team and the Circus Pilots While the Red Arrows pilots captivate audiences in the skies, they rely on a dedicated support team comprising engineers and technicians.


Notably, some support team members have the opportunity to fly alongside the pilots.

Referred to as “Circus” pilots, they occupy the passenger seat in the Hawk aircraft, providing maintenance and support during displays away from the team’s home base.

This experience is highly coveted among engineering and technical professionals in the Royal Air Force.

Overcoming Nervousness and Embracing the Role Despite undergoing months of training, Ollie acknowledges the initial nervousness experienced before the first few displays.

However, confidence grows over time, and the pilots cannot imagine pursuing any other profession.


The pride they take in their work drives them to strive for flawless performances.

A Dream Come True with Physical Challenges Being a Red Arrows pilot fulfills a childhood dream for Ollie.

However, he reveals the physical demands imposed by the aerial stunts.

Pilots wear specialized G-Suits, which cover their legs and help maintain blood flow to the heart and brain during high G-force maneuvers.

The G-pants inflate and apply pressure to the legs and midriff, ensuring pilots remain conscious.


Ollie also mentions specific techniques, such as core clenching and breathing exercises, employed during extreme G-forces.

Conclusion: Ollie’s journey from an enthralled spectator to a Red Arrows pilot exemplifies the dedication and perseverance required to join this prestigious team.

With the Wales Airshow as the backdrop, Ollie and his fellow pilots are poised to dazzle audiences with their skillful displays, forming captivating shapes in the sky.

The Red Arrows’ performances are a testament to the exceptional teamwork and talent of both the pilots and the support staff.

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