Stunning images show the UK’s Royal Air Force Red Arrows zooming past New York landmarks with US Thunderbirds and F-35s

The RAF Red Arrows flew over Manhattan on Thursday.

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The RAF Red Arrows flew over Manhattan on Thursday.
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SAC Rose Buchanan / Royal Air Force

  • The Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows flew over the Hudson River near the island of Manhattan on Thursday, passing New York City landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. “You see on a map with New York on there, and you’re about to fly down the Hudson,” Flight Lt. Damon Green told Insider, adding: “We’ve been talking about it for months.”
  • The Red Arrows have flown the BAE Systems T1 Hawk since 1979. “I think the pilots see them as almost like flying a classic sports car,” Operations Officer Doug Smith said.
  • Four F-35 Lightning II aircraft flew in formation with the Red Arrows, and the US Air Force Thunderbirds joined, too.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

The Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows streaked red, white, and blue down the Hudson River along the island of Manhattan on Thursday as they flew a demonstration flight alongside the US Air Force Thunderbirds, the F-22 Raptor demonstration team, and four US Air Force F-35s.

It’s the first US tour for the Red Arrows since 2008. Read on for stunning images from their flight by New York City.


The Royal Air Force demonstration took place Thursday alongside the US Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team and four US Air Force F-35s. The crew for the Red Arrows’ North American tour consists of 108 people, the Red Arrows’ public-relations manager, Andrew Morton, told Insider.

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The Royal Air Force Red Arrows flew in New York on Thursday.
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Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

The Red Arrows fly the BAE Systems T1 Hawk, as they have done since 1979. While the system is 40 years old, the Hawk is a dependable aircraft and “a testament to the British engineering behind them,” the Red Arrow engineering team member Ben Ireland told Insider. “I think the pilots see them as almost like flying a classic sports car,” Operations Officer Doug Smith said.

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Mike Segar / REUTERS

The Red Arrows are on their largest North American tour in 11 years, visiting 26 cities in the US and Canada over 11 weeks. Participants described the tour as representing the strong relationship between the US and the UK. “No nations work more closely together,” Morton said.

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The Red Arrows departing their home base of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire for the start of Exercise Western Hawk.
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Cpl Graham Taylor RAF / Ministry of Defence

The Red Arrows flew from New York Stewart International Airport down to the Hudson River, down the lower tip of Manhattan, flying by landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center. “You see on a map with New York on there, and you’re about to fly down the Hudson,” Flight Lt. Damon Green told Insider, adding: “We’ve been talking about it for months.”

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The Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying past One World Trade Center on Thursday.
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Shannon Stapleton / REUTERS

Becoming a Red Arrows pilot is extremely difficult, Smith told Insider. Pilots must have combat experience, have flown 1,500 fast-jet hours in the RAF’s Tornado or Typhoon aircraft, and have been assessed as above-average pilots during their careers. Applicants who make the short list — about nine pilots a year — are assessed by the rest of the team and must complete a flying test.

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The Red Arrows flying past the Chicago skyline.
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Sgt Ashley Keates – RAF / UK Ministry of Defense

Two F-35 Lightning II aircraft flew in formation behind the Red Arrows.

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Red Arrows flew over the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, on Thursday.
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Tech. Sgt. Jensen Stidham / US Air Force DVIDS

The aircraft made several pit stops on the way from the UK to the US. “We route them from our home base in Scampton, up to Scotland” and across to Iceland, Smith told Insider. “We then flew across to a very very small landing strip in Greenland, quick refuel there, and the jets then flew across to Goose Bay in Canada.” From Goose Bay, the jets flew to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were tuned up. “Flying that far is quite hard punishment on the aircraft,” the Red Arrow engineering team member Ben Ireland told Insider. “They were never really designed to fly that far.”

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British Red Arrows Fighter jets soaring over the USS Constitution.
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Seaman Nathan Roth / US Navy / DVIDS

Jets from the F-22 Raptor demonstration team flew alongside the Red Arrows over New York City on Thursday.

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F-22 Raptors demonstration team / US Air Force

“To have the opportunity to fly along the Hudson in a fast-jet, with Manhattan’s skyscrapers lining part of the route and so many famous landmarks as a backdrop, was a fantastic, rewarding experience,” Red Arrows Squadron Leader Martin Pert said in a release.

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The Red Arrows streaked past the Statue of Liberty.
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NYPD Special Operations team

Source: Royal Air Force


Two F-35s flew in tight formation with the Red Arrows. “Even more exhilarating was being able to complete this flypast knowing the Thunderbirds were just ahead of us and the F-22s and F-35s tucked in behind our aircraft,” Pert said.

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F-22 Raptors demonstration team / US Air Force

Source: Royal Air Force