Squadron Leader Mike Ling
Red Arrows

Longest-Serving Red Arrow Leaves RAF After 'Incredible' Career

Squadron Leader Mike Ling piloted a Red Hawk more than 2,500 times.

Squadron Leader Mike Ling

The pilot flew a Red Hawk more than 2,500 times (Pictures: Crown Copyright).

The Red Arrows' longest-serving pilot Squadron Leader Mike Ling has retired from the Royal Air Force after 21 years.

The RAF officer flew for the RAF Aerobatic Team for the final time last October and described his time in the military as "incredible".

During his career, Sqn Ldr Ling completed 10 seasons with the Red Arrows, piloting a Red Hawk 2,585 times during 1,765 flying hours.

"It's been a true honour serving Her Majesty and this country, working with the most amazing people," he said on Twitter.

"Thanks to all who made it so brilliant."

Sqn Ldr Ling joined the RAF in 1998, and operationally flew the Tornado F3 over the UK and Falkland Islands.

His first spell with the Red Arrows was as a display pilot, joining in 2007 and flying as Red 3 in the 2008 season, this time including being part of the Synchro Pair, which is formed of Reds 6 and 7 performing opposition manoeuvres during a show.

Squadron Leader Mike Ling during last public commentary in Bahrain
Sqn Ldr Ling during his last public commentary in Bahrain in October 2017 (Picture: MOD).

The pilot then completed six seasons as Red 10, a role which means being the team's supervisor, maintaining contact with the Team Leader and providing commentary at events on the ground.

In 2018, Sqn Ldr Ling returned to the Red Arrows to stand in as Red 3, while Flight Lieutenant David Stark recovered from injuries sustained in a crash at RAF Valley.

When he officially left the Red Arrows in October 2018, he described it as an "incredible privilege" to have been part of the team.

During his time with the Red Arrows, Sqn Ldr Ling visited 46 countries and displayed or commentated 699 events.

He will now join the Blades Aerobatic Team as a pilot, which was founded by two former members of the RAF.

When looking back on his Red Arrows career, Sqn Ldr Ling listed one of his career highlights as racing a jet against a Formula One car driven by four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2013.