All You Need To Know Before The RAF's Centenary Flypast

Up to 100 jets, helicopters and aeroplanes from a range of different eras across the RAF's history are expected to take part.

Cover Image: the Red Arrows approaching the Mall, towards Buckingham Palace. They took part in the celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday Flypast on 11 June 2016 (Picture: MoD).

The largest concentration of military aircraft in recent memory will descend on the skies above London as the Royal Air Force marks its centenary year.

Up to 100 jets, helicopters and aeroplanes from a range of different eras across the RAF's history, including Spitfires and modern state-of-the-art aircraft, are expected to take part.

But how has the spectacle been organised and planned? Here are some of the questions surrounding the event on 10 July, which will be live streamed on Forces TV (Sky 450, Freeview 96, Freesat 165, Virgin 277) and on Forces News' Facebook page.


Which aircraft will take part?

F-35B MoD
Weather and serviceability dependent, it is expected the new cutting-edge stealth fighter F-35 jets will feature (Picture: MoD).

Helicopters including the Puma, Chinook, Juno and Jupiter are also expected to attend.

Aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight including the Dakota, Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire are part of the line-up, as are training aircraft including the Prefect, Tucano and Hawk.

The Hercules, Atlas A400M, C-17, BAe 146, Sentinel, Voyager, Shadow, Rivet Joint, E-3D Sentry, Tornado GR4, Typhoon and Red Arrows are also set to make an appearance.


Will aircraft fly on the day?

Wing Commander Kev Gatland said the weather across the holding areas, where the aircraft take off from, to London and the areas they disperse to afterwards is key and may affect the numbers involved.

If the weather is bad or unsuitable in any of these areas, some aircraft may not join the flypast or it could be cancelled altogether.

He also said operational commitments of the aircraft are another reason why they might not take part, as is the serviceability of each one.


How will it all happen?

The aircraft will take off from where they are based and fly into their designated holding areas - this is where they will circle and move into their formations until it is time to join the flypast. (Picture: Royal Air Force)

It is expected the flypast will begin to form up over Suffolk to the west of Ipswich at around 12.45pm, 10 July, before heading towards Colchester, and then Chelmsford.

The formation will continue over the M25, Stapleford Abbotts, Hainault Forest and on to central London - passing the Olympic Park, Hackney, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch before getting to The Mall at around 1pm.


What speeds are the aircraft doing?

Wg Cdr Gatland said: "The front aircraft, the helicopters, are doing 90 knots, so about 100 miles an hour, the back aircraft, which will be the Red Arrows, are doing about 300 knots - just over 300 miles an hour.

"They obviously compress, they are at their tightest when they go over Buckingham Palace with a 30-second spacing in between.

"At that point we need to geographically deconflict them all safely using height, track lines away from each other and timing to keep them all clear."


How high will the aircraft be flying?

Wg Cdr Gatland said they will be stacked between 1,000ft and 1,200ft above the ground. He said their heights are alternated "through wake turbulence" and to provide space if the aircraft "happen to get too close".

A Tornado (right) escorts a C17 Globemaster above Buckingham Palace for the Queen's birthday in 2008 (Picture: MoD).

How has it been planned?

The event has been planned using what Wg Cdr Gatland called "fantastic" and "very accurate" software in which speeds, routes and locations are entered and calculated.

They have also conducted flights over the planned route to check for obstructions - including any new tall buildings or cranes on top of buildings that have been newly erected.

On Tuesday, the RAF completed their final practice ahead of the pinnacle of the flypast. 

More: RAF Complete Final Rehearsal Before Historical Centenary Flypast