By Christopher Maynard
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The RAF was convinced by these arguments, and the team was ofﬁcially increased to nine aircraft for all displays for the 1968 season. Although it was not a new device or unique to the Red Arrows, the now famous perfectly symmetrical Diamond Nine became their signature formation, so much so that it is now a registered trademark. Also in this year, the Red Arrows were introduced to an aircraft they would be long associated with as a leading example of British aviation prowess, the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde.
The seven brightred Gnats drew great acclaim for their tight formations and close, low-level passes, the entire display being designed to keep the action in front of the crowd and supply many thrilling moments. The ﬁrst public display took place at Clermont-Ferrand on May 9 at one of the National Air Day displays then very popular in France. The ﬁrst Red Arrows’ display in Great Britain took place at the Biggin Hill International Air Fair on May 15. These were to be the ﬁrst of 65 team displays ﬂown that year, not just in France and the UK, but also at events in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
S qn Ldr Ian Dick had led the team for his tour of three years, and was replaced in 1975 by Sqn Ldr ‘Dickie’ Duckett. Duckett had ﬂown as Red 9 in 1968, Red 4 in 1969 and Red 7 in 1970, so was well versed in the team’s display. This year also saw the beginning of a long association with the BBC television programme Blue Peter, which itself had become a British institution since its ﬁrst broadcast in 1958. The ﬁrst Blue Peter presenter to ﬂy with the Red Arrows was the immensely likeable John Noakes, the longest running member in the history of the Blue Peter team.
Aircraft by Christopher Maynard