Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Suffolk pilot selected for Red Arrows

Suffolk pilot selected for Red Arrows

A Suffolk pilot has been appointed to lead the Red Arrows display team.

Peter Paulson, a flyer with 735 hours of flight experience (mainly spent on radio-controlled model planes) was selected to lead the Arrows from the start of the 2023 air show season.

Paulson, who is visually impaired (blind) became eligible for selection to the world’s foremost aerobatics team after a recent landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights and Wrongs. Asked to decide on whether blind pilots should be allowed to fly, the court determined that not to allow them to do so would be discriminatory, and gave its consent for thousands of blind pilots who had formerly been prevented from doing so, to take to the skies. Crazy.

Aldi Airfield

The Suffolk Gazette spoke to Mr Paulson (‘Wobbly Pete’ to his friends) when we covered the legal case in November and we contacted him again to congratulate him on his new appointment. We asked him how on Earth did he get the job? “Well, after the ECHRW decision I was desperate to get off the ground, so I booked a 1-hour lesson in a powered hang glider, my first. It went OK. Apparently, the views were spectacular. Admittedly, I came down with a bit of a bump – but there isn’t much space in the Aldi car park where they tell me I landed.”

Suffolk pilot & Red Arrows

We asked Wobbly a.k.a Suffolk pilot to get to the point. “Yes, of course. So anyway, I thought well, this isn’t too difficult,.and now that the Europeans have agreed that I can’t be discriminated against, the sky’s the limit! After the flight, I asked Jeremy Paxman.– who is a keen amateur hang-gliderer –  to read out the jobs advertised in the monthly aviation magazine, Pilots Only. When he said that the Red Arrows were looking for pilots, well… that was it. I knew that that was the job for me!”


Unfortunately, Wobbly had no experience flying the Hawk T1 advanced trainer aircraft used by the Red Arrows,.and arrived for the job interview at RAF Scampton in the powered hang glider he had borrowed from the Suffolk & Essex Gliding Club. He admits he felt a little nervous. “I admit, I felt a little nervous, but when I got up there I relaxed,.and everything just fell into place. I had thoroughly researched and practiced the formations using some of the Airfix models.I had kept from when I was a kid, and I knew the call signs inside out.”


So how did the Squadron leader come to pick Paulson out of the tens of more experienced pilots.who had applied for the post? “Ahh, that was easy! A soon as I heard the guy who was in charge say ‘I’m sorry to tell you…’,.I just whipped out the ECHRW decision and waved it in front of his face, or near his face. And that was it… works every time!”

Wobbly will lead the Red Arrows from July 2023.

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