A FLIGHT Lieutenant from Newport has become one of the latest pilots to join the Red Arrows.
Michael Bowden, 33, will become part of the world renowned Royal Air Force's aerobatic team from September. The squadron, which first displayed to the public in 1965, has performed more than 4,500 times in 56 countries.
The team of 9 based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire fly the Hawk T1 and are famous for their trademark Diamond Nine formation.
Mr Bowden is a former pupil of St Joseph's R.C High School who joined the Royal Air Force in 2002. After being posted to II (AC) Squadron at RAF Marham, he completed two operational tours of Afghanistan, flying the Tornado GR4.
He said: “I have always had a passion for pure flying and the Red Arrows hold the top trump card in that arena. The team demonstrates the absolute pinnacle of flying ability and the desire to be part of that team has been there since being a small boy and has only ever grown as the years have gone on.
“The Red Arrows stand out as respected ambassadors for the Royal Air Force and the UK as a whole, both at home and abroad. In terms of a recruitment tool, surely the team is second-to-none. It is the reason I applied and never gave up. It is such a huge privilege to think I can be part of the team that can have that influence on our future generation.”
To apply to join the Red Arrows, Royal Air Force pilots need to have at least 1,500 fast jet flying hours, to have completed a frontline tour and be assessed as above average in their flying role. Red Arrows’ pilots stay for three years and are selected following a gruelling process that involves flight tests, interviews and other exercises.
Once they have finished their three-year tour with the team, the pilots return to frontline, instructional or staff duties. Red Arrows’ pilots stay for three years and are selected following a gruelling process that involves flight tests, interviews and other exercises.
Raymond Bowden, Michael's father, said: "We are all very proud of him. The whole family is - with his grandma being Dutch - the whole family over there are incredible proud as well.
"Mike has always been interested in flying. He’s flown Harriers, Tornados and now will fly with the Red Arrows.”