Red Arrows Aerobatic Team bid farewell to RAF Scampton station

As reported by the Royal Air Force on its official website, on 21st October 2022, the last aircraft of the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team had left RAF Scampton station, taking-off from there for the last time.

After almost forty years of being the home base for the team that is a true showcase of the RAF, the renowned airbase in Lincolnshire is, regrettably, closing as part of the British Ministry of Defence cost-saving measures. Therefore, most of the Red Arrows’ aircraft and personnel have already been transferred to their new home – RAF Waddington station – just a few weeks ago.

BAE Systems Hawk T1A with registration number XX323 was the last aircraft of the Red Arrows to take-off from runway 04 at RAF Scampton on Wednesday, 19th October, after completion of engineering works.

´This is both an historic and a somewhat emotional moment for us at Royal Air Force Scampton. The Red Arrows have been based here since 1983, which makes them one of the longest-resident flying units in the Station’s history. We wish the team all the very best for their future, operating from their new home at RAF Waddington and we are all sure they will continue to go from strength-to-strength as fantastic ambassadors for both the Royal Air Force and the nation. While we will dearly miss being the team’s home, we are excited to know that they will continue to train in the skies of Lincolnshire´ – said Wing Commander Neill Atkins, Station Commander of the RAF Scampton.

The interesting fact is that the story of the airbase in Lincolnshire is actually longer than the history of the Royal Air Force itself. On 13th October 1916, Air Station Brattleby Cliff of Home Defence Flight unit was opened there and then renamed RAF Scampton two years later. That makes it one of the oldest air bases of the Royal Air Force.   

In the subsequent years of its existence, the airfield often played pivotal role in the history of the Royal Air Force. During the Second World War, for example, it was the home base of No. 617 Bomber Squadron. The unit, known as ‘Dambusters’, took part in the well-known raid on dams in the Ruhr valley of Germany, using so-called ‘bouncing bombs’ as part of Operation Chastise in May of 1943.

During the Cold War, nuclear-capable Avro Vulcan bombers were based at Lincolnshire airfield. With the beginning of the 1980s, the station became the home of the RAF Central Flying School and the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team. Later, it was also the location for part of the UK Air Surveillance and Control System.

Red Arrows flying over southern Jordan, during Eastern Hawk Tour of the Middle East, 2017 (photo: SAC Hannah Smoker© Crown copyright)

´The Red Arrows have been only one chapter in RAF Scampton’s very long history. However, our beloved Station has been a huge chapter in our history after moving from RAF Kemble in 1983. With a small interlude at RAFC Cranwell in the mid-1990s, Scampton has been our home for 35 years. As the last RAF squadron to operate from Scampton, taking off from the runway for the final time was a poignant moment. We offer sincere thanks to the local community and Station staff who have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to generations of team personnel and their families´ – said Wing Commander David Montenegro, Officer Commanding of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

During the period that the Red Arrows were stationed at the RAF Scampton, the airfield hosted a number of events that promoted the Royal Air Force to the general public, including, among others, many television programmes and live broadcasts. Notable here is the visit of a British Airways Boeing 747-400 that carried children in support of charity activities in partnership with the BBC television station and other local media in the 1990s.

In 2013, the RAF Scampton base was visited by the famous Formula 1 driver and World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who drove his bolide on the airfield’s runway when filming a spot before the British Grand Prix.

In addition, the airfield was being frequently visited by many cadets, school children, and aviation enthusiasts, resulting in the RAF Scampton to inspire many young people and future generations.

´Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have visited the Red Arrows at Scampton – for many their first steps on an RAF base. Scampton has offered our visitors an immersive and personal experience of RAF life and I am sure will remain close to the hearts of all of those who have watched us go about our daily working routine. We take off into our next chapter at RAF Waddington. Thankfully, we stay close to the city of Lincoln and remain in the region that has supported us so enthusiastically and devotedly throughout the years´ – added Wing Commander David Montenegro.

Although the record of the RAF Scampton station is about to come to an end, the story of the Red Arrows continues. The team will continue its activity at the new home base at the RAF Waddington station and there is nothing more to say than wishing the Red Arrows safe flights and even more stunning performances in the future.

The Red Arrows performing a low level flypast over 04 threshold at RAF Scampton (photo: Cpl Andy Benson © Crown copyright)

Cover photo: Red Arrows training display over Greece, by Cpl Adam Fletcher. All photos and quotations by UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022. That article contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.