Posted: Fri 2nd Sep 2022

Red Arrows pilot: “I shut my eyes and ducked” as he hit seagull at 400mph over Rhyl

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Sep 2nd, 2022

A Red Arrows pilot instinctively shut his eyes and ducked as the Hawk T1 jet smashed into a seagull at 400mph over Rhyl on Sunday.

The world-famous aerobatic team were performing the second of two displays at Rhyl airshow last weekend when the mid-air incident took place.

The jet’s canopy shattered as a result of the impact, the pilot, Sqd Ldr Gregor Ogston took the full force of the gull and debris on his helmet which was badly damaged, thankfully he was uninjured.

He managed to safely fly the red Hawk T1 jet back to Hawarden airfield – next to Airbus Broughton – where the team were based last weekend.

Photo: Diego Breuer

Recalling the incident, Sqd Ldr Ogston, Red 6, said it was an “eventful day in Rhyl.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Lincolnshire he said: “We were about halfway through the show and just having started the more dynamic second half of our display.”

“As I was running down the display line at 100 feet and 400 miles an hour pointing towards Red seven, out of the corner of my eye,  just before we were about to meet in the middle, I saw a seagull in my peripheral vision.”

He said: “I closed my eyes as it was so close and the bird hit the canopy which unfortunately shattered, the bird and lots of the canopy then flew into the cockpit at that point.”

The incident happened during a section of the display where Red 6 was heading straight for Red 7 at high speed.

The initial impact was quite disorientating, the noise was incredible.

I’d liken it to driving down the motorway at 70mph with all your windows fully open – imagine doing that at 400mph.

Even with my helmet on and my earplugs in the noise was just phenomenal.

Sqd Ldr Ogston a Red Arrows pilot of four years said, “Thankfully, we had already set our miss at that point, so we were on heading and going to pass (each other) regardless.”

“I just instinctively shut my eyes and ducked to my head as the impact happened, I was almost flying blind for a couple of seconds.”

“I had complete trust in Red 7 coming the other way, whose job it is to avoid me. As he whizzed past my left wing, my canopy shattered around me.”

Matt Fields, RAF Air Command Warrant Officer (Survival Equipment) posted pictures of Sqd Ldr Ogston’s badly damaged head protection on social media.

He said: “This Aircrew Helmet provided protection from the debris and wind blast, it allowed the pilot to bring the aircraft down safely in line with well-rehearsed emergency procedures.”

Twitter/Matt Fields

Sqd Ldr Ogston said: “I really am indebted to the team that supports us every day on the Red Arrows and from the wider Royal Air Force.”

In this particular case, to the team that maintains our flying survival equipment.”

We’re doing 400 miles at the time and a large Seagull comes through the canopy, if anyone’s ever hit a bird driving their car, a pheasant or something like that, you could imagine the impact.”

“It did give me a bit of a glancing blow on the right-hand side of my head as it came in along with the alot of perspex from the canopy.”

“The visor incredibly took all that impact but remained intact.”

Photo: Ben Stacey

“I was able to maintain consciousness and fly the aircraft away safely from the crowd from the ground and then position it for a recovery back to the nearest airport (Hawarden) which was about eight or 10 minutes away.”

Sqd Ldr Ogston tweeted after the incident: “Particular thanks to @rafred7 for escorting me back to the airfield and to the emergency services at Hawarden airport for their speedy response and assistance.”

[Main photo: MOD]



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