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A day in the life of a display pilot…

By 17 October 2018April 30th, 2021No Comments

Whether it’s red’s rolling now, bring the noise or rotor’s running, there is more to each airshow display than meets the eye…

A crowd pleaser!

Display teams are often seen meeting the crowds, answering questions and signing material during airshows as well as before them!

We take a look at what happens behind the scenes before the show.


All the hard work is done in preseason training but every display venue is different so pre-flight study is essential. The most important factor is the weather – without good visibility and a good horizon and a high enough cloud-base the show can’t happen.

So, the day starts with a met brief to check that the weather will be fit to fly at the show but also importantly will be fit to transit to the show. Lots of planning goes into choosing a safe and appropriate route with many checks of avoids, ‘notices to airmen’ (NOTAMs) and royal flights. Fuel planning is covered as the aircraft will fall out of the sky if they run out!

Then the brief is conducted with the event organiser to ensure that the venue and its rules are completely understood, what the exact timings for each display will be and how the aircraft will avoid each other as they arrive and depart the arena.

Next the pre-flight brief specific to the aircraft or formation of aircraft is conducted. This re-iterates the weather, the timings, the routing, the airfield details and walks through each display type and what would happen if there was an emergency at different points in the show.

Finally the pilot gets kitted up but not before the engineers have completed all of the pre-flight servicing and checks and signalled that the aircraft is ready to fly.

Once the pilot signs for the aircraft it is their responsibility until it is signed back in at the end of the flight.

Arriving at the aircraft the pilot checks that it is safe and clears the engineer to remove the final safety pins. They check the cockpit switches and ejection seat and conduct a thorough walk around of the aircraft as a last chance check for leaks, missed pins and loose panels.



Once in the aircraft power is applied and the preflight checks are completed, the engine(s) started on time and a final check by the ground crew is made before the chocks are removed.


The jet is then ready to taxi on time and get airborne to thrill the crowd!


Our thanks to Craig Sluman for helping us with his phenomenal photography skills this season. We are also grateful to Michelle Middleton, Viv Porteous, Caroline Haycock and Capture a Second for their support and resources.

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