The Blades Aerobatic Display Team at English Riviera Airshow 050122 CREDIT TWITTER thebladesteam
The Blades aerobatic display team at the English Riviera Air Show (Picture: Twitter / thebladesteam).
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Blades aerobatic display team – made up of former Red Arrows – to disband

The Blades Aerobatic Display Team at English Riviera Airshow 050122 CREDIT TWITTER thebladesteam
The Blades aerobatic display team at the English Riviera Air Show (Picture: Twitter / thebladesteam).

The Blades aerobatic display team have announced they are to disband, confirming 2022 was their final full season. 

Founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of 2Excel Aviation, the civilian aerobatic team is comprised of pilots who all previously flew with the RAF's Red Arrows

In an official statement, 2Excel said "the decision has not been taken lightly" and cited "challenges to global economies, the worsening cost-of-living crisis and the protracted hit to disposable incomes this is causing have exacerbated the challenges facing the Blades".

These factors, along with "the continued degradation of the air show circuit, with more and more events being lost" meant "fewer opportunities to display and showcase our sponsors to the public".

2Excel is seeking to honour all existing bookings and said its ex-military fast jet pilots and support staff are to redeploy elsewhere within the business.

The Red Arrows' longest-serving pilot Squadron Leader Mike Ling, who retired from the RAF in 2019 and joined the Blades, took to Twitter, saying: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Andy Offer, 2Excel's co-founder and director, said: "As one of the original Blades pilots, I had the privilege to lead the team for several years.

"The concept emerged from the many requests I had during my time in the Red Arrows to take members of the public flying.

"That was impossible due to the restrictions on flying civilians in military jets.

"But it made us realise there was potential to provide the experience of a lifetime by taking paying passengers aloft for close formation aerobatics."

He went on: "During the 17 flying seasons the Blades delivered, millions of people saw the team display and thousands have ridden onboard our aircraft.

"We owe a great debt of gratitude to every one of them.

"But, most importantly, we must pay tribute to the pilots who have flown with the team and to the ground staff who supported them over the years – especially to those who delivered the final season in 2022 with the Blades' traditional professionalism and flair.

"They will be missed."