Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Red Arrows present female pilot


Kirsty Moore explains how the Red Arrows work

Twenty years since women were first allowed to become pilots in the RAF, the Red Arrows have unveiled their first female aviator.

By their own admission, the inclusion of 31-year-old Flt Lt Kirsty Moore is an "historic" occasion for the renowned Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

Flt Lt Moore will fly as "Red 3" for three seasons from next May.

It's the culmination of an ambition that started as a school girl watching her father as an RAF navigator.

"I was blown away to get into the Red Arrows," she said.

"The 'girl' bit on top, well someone was always going to do it sooner or later and by pure timing it's me."

Every year about 30 fast-jet pilots apply to the coveted Red Arrows, based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

Only the best are successful and the prerequisites include at least one front-line tour of duty as a fast-jet pilot and a minimum of 1,500 flying hours.

The full 2010 Red Arrows team:

RED 1 - Sqn Ldr Ben Murphy (from Loughborough)
RED 2 - Flt Lt Ben Plank (Worcestershire)
RED 3 - Flt Lt Kirsty Moore (Lincolnshire)
RED 4 - Flt Lt Dave Davies (Colwyn Bay, Wales)
RED 5 - Flt Lt Zane Sennett (Lincolnshire)
RED 6 - Flt Lt Mike Ling (Kent)
RED 7 - Flt Lt David Montenegro (Kent)
RED 8 - Sqn Ldr Graham Duff (Cumbria)
RED 9 - Flt Lt Simon Rea (New Zealand)
RED 10 (and Road Manager) - Sqn Ldr Graeme Bagnall (Cumbria)

Flt Lt Moore joined the RAF in 1998, becoming a Hawk instructor and then Tornado pilot. She is not the first woman to apply for the Red Arrows, but she was the first to be shortlisted and then selected.

"It's totally excelled all my expectations," she said.

"The banter on the squadron is pretty rife. I get as much for the colour of my hair than for my sex, but everyone gets their fair share."

Women flew in the Air Transport Auxillery in the Second World War with Jean Bird later being awarded her RAF wings.

But it was not until 1989 that women could qualify as RAF pilots - Flt Lt Julie Gibson led the way followed in 1993 by Flt Lt Jo Salter becoming the first RAF fast-jet pilot.

But female fast-jet pilots remain a small minority in the RAF. Kieran Daly, an aviation consultant and blogger, said the small number is one of the main reasons why it's taken 20 years.

"It's all about whether women apply or not and traditionally they have not applied to be combat pilots, it's self fulfilling," he said.

"For many decades the real obstacle for women being in the military and being pilots was the mind-set of the military command and the prejudices.

"There were some issues, particularly relating to equipment. For example women were more prone to black-out under high G-forces.

"But a lot more work was done and when equipment started being used, that had not been designed just for men but had been designed for women, it proved possible to counteract that problem and women performed just as well as men did."

'Excellence and professionalism'

The new team is already into seven months of intensive training before their 46th display season, which started in 1965 and has taken in 53 countries.

They act as ambassadors and it is likely Flt Lt Moore will fly at the London Olympics along with the team's other new recruit Flt Lt Ben Plank, 30.

Squadron Leader Ben Murphy, who takes overall command of the team for the next three years, said: "It's certainly a mile-stone and a great personal achievement for Kirsty.

"But as far as the team goes we selected her because she was one of the best two pilots for the job.

"We're here to showcase the excellence and professionalism of all the personnel in the RAF and when we have so many on operations in Afghanistan our job is all the more important."

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