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The first RAF flying teams and their planes

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, Weapons on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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This edited article about British aviation’s flying teams originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 789 published on 26th February 1977.

RAF bombers, picture, image, illustration

The Heyford biplane bomber (top left, second down) by Wilf Hardy

With their jet trails streaking bright paths of white in the skies, the Red Arrows R.A.F. aerobatic team have earned themselves a place in aviation’s hall of fame.

They are the modern successors to the spectacular flying teams that filled the skies with their daring and thrilling exploits at air shows held between the wars.

Every summer, the R.A.F. gave displays at Hendon aerodrome near London. A feature of these was a flight of three planes linked by a cord from which hung pennants.

One incident that was not often repeated was the looping of a Heyford bomber at Hendon in 1936. The thousands of spectators who witnessed this spectacle could hardly believe their eyes. However, this large and ungainly machine was, in fact, quite manoeuvrable and was looped on several occasions.

The Heyford was the last of the R.A.F.’s big biplane bombers. Although the unusual arrangement of the fuselage gave the crew a very good all-round view, the height above the ground of the pilot’s cockpit made it a difficult plane to land, unless the pilot had a great deal of practice.

Before it was replaced by Wellingtons in 1939, the Heyford had given many pilots their first experience in handling a heavy bomber, and it continued to be used for various training duties in the early years of the Second World War.

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