28th Apr, 2017

FEATURE: An office which travels across the globe at 600mph, Coventry's own Red Arrows support member

SUMMER for many means looking forward to an annual European break, watching the sun go down with a drink in hand or spending the longer nights kicking a ball around at the local park.

But for one Coventry man, summer proves to be the busiest time of the air – spent travelling the globe with the world famous Red Arrows.

Senior Aircraftman Mark Pittaway will spending this year flying in the back seat of the Red Arrows 5 aircraft.

The 26-year-old joined the Red Arrows Squadron for the first time in 2012, before completing further training at RAF Cosford and being posted to the Squadron again in February 2016.

His role has seen the former Coundon Court student travel across the world, helping out at events in China, India, Thailand and Singapore.

The married father-of-one will be one of a ten-strong team of engineers known as the ‘Circus Blues’, who have been assigned to a specific aircraft and pilot throughout the 2017 display season.

Speaking to The Observer, Mark said his flying engineer role sees him fly most days throughout the season before servicing them so they can take to the air again.

He said: “There’s a lot of travelling involved but it’s a role I love and have no plans on changing right now.

“I completed my GCSEs at Coundon Court before joining the airforce in 2009 where I completed two separate courses over six years.

“One of those courses was an aircraft maintenance phase where I learnt how to service a jet.”

As Circus Five, Mark will sit in the back seat of Red 5 – Flight Lieutenant Chris Lyndon-Smith – throughout the 2017 Display Season with the Red Arrows.

The Red Arrows Team consists of nine display pilots, all of whom are from frontline squadrons and are experienced officers in the Royal Air Force.

Each has previously operated other fast jets, such as the Tornado or the Typhoon multi-role combat aircraft – helping the Royal Air Force to protect the nation and its interests at all hours, 365-days a year.

In total, there are 120 support staff in the Red Arrows – including operations and flight planners, engineering technicians, photographers, safety equipment experts, drivers, a public relations department, suppliers and administrators.

While building up to becoming a full-time senior aircraftman, Mark was responsible for other projects behind the scenes – one of which millions of people across the globe witnessed.

He said: “I was responsible for the red, white and blue smoke which comes out of the back of the plane during the London 2012 Olympic Games, that was quite a cool moment.

“Flying in one of the Red Arrows is obviously a lot different to taking to the air in a conventional passenger jet.

“It’s completely different, we have to cope with a lot of G-Force and at times it is tough – breathing is different, it’s not as calming.

“My job allows me to travel the world and complete a role I’m extremely fortunate to have.”

Visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds for more information on the Red Arrows or follow @rafredarrows on Twitter.