From Our Archive: 1972 Red Arrows Operation Longbow
In 1972 the Red Arrows embarked on Operation Longbow - an ambitious mission taking the Royal Air Force's display team from Great Britain, across the Arctic Circle and on to the United States.
Guests of honour at what became became the world's largest air show, the U.S. International Transportation Exposition at Washington's Dulles Airport.
Drawing in 1.25 million visitors Transpo '72 was the biggest show the US government had put on since the Second World War. Along with the new widebody airliners and military aircraft, it featured an assortment of futuristic technology including automated transit systems and 'flying trains'.
The Red Arrows, flying Folland Gnats, weren't however the only aerobatic team at the event, joined in the skies by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels. Tragically however on the last day a Thunderbird Phantom F-4E lost power during a manoeuvre, the pilot ejecting safely but subsequently dying after winds blew him into the fiery crash site.
The fatality, one of three at Transpo '72, ensured that what had been intended to become an annual event was never held again.
Undaunted by their US counterparts misfortune the Red Arrows continued their tour across the United States and Canada - wowing audiences wherever they performed.
For the return journey back to the UK the Gnats, carrying long-range fuel tanks and supported by two Hercules, were joined by an Avro Vulcan in order to help them navigate across the barren Arctic. The flight was achieved in several hops via Newfoundland's Goose Bay and Keflavik in Iceland.
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