Norfolk men fly high with the Red Arrows

Slicing a loop through the sky, they have become a much-loved symbol of all that is great about British aeronautics.

But behind the stunning aerobatics that made thousands gasp at Lowestoft Air Show, the Red Arrows are a finely honed team of highly skilled professionals- with two even hailing from Norfolk.

Pilot Flt Lt Sean Cunningham said that airshows like that in Norfolk were an important 'public driven' opportunity to see an 'iconic' plane.

Joining him are locals corporal Dave Howard and senior aircraftman Simon Watkins, part of a ten man specially selected support crew of engineers known as the Circus.

And with long histories in the RAF, they are now travelling on board the planes between display shows, taking in more than 90 venues across Europe and even a bit of local geography on the way.


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Mr Watkins, 28, is originally from Poringland and responsible for servicing the two seat planes, whichcame Exeter ahead of the show and landed in SaxonAir hangar, which is based at Norwich airport,

While queues were building at the airshow, he was flying high from Exeter as the team set off for the 'I was based at the airport so I didn't get to see the show, but I've flown across Norfolk a few times and it's always special flying over your own home county.

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'I flew along the coast just two days before I got married this June and I spotted Sizewell power station and we passed Great Yarmouth too.

'This time we flew near Spixworth, and despite what you may think it's not that uncomfortable, and though you fly fast it's not so fast you can't see, so when you're flying over fields you can sometimes even see sheep running away.'

Joining him is corporal Dave Howard, of Dereham, who checks the weapons and started training for the role after returning from Afghanistan in December.

A former pupil at Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, he joined the RAF in 1996, following in the footsteps of his father, an RAF photographer who moved to Norfolk because of his job.

The 33-year-old-said: 'I remember seeing the Red Arrows do a display as a child and it made me want to join the military so to be involved is a dream. The first time you get in it's quite scary but you're excited and I've probably flown 20 times now.

'On the way from Exeter it started off cloudy but soon we were able to fly lower and I saw Marham, and once you know where everything is you're able to spot lot of places.'

Is your job unusual and exciting? Contact reporter John Owens on 01603 772439 or email john.owens@archant.co.uk

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