The Gnat Display Team has added a third Folland Gnat to its fleet and will be flying three-ship displays at this year’s airshows.

Airshow organisers are now eyeing up the team for its three-ship display routine in this, the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows first display season; the team originally starting out flying the Gnat.

G-MOUR © Darren Harber

G-MOUR © Darren Harbar

The Gnat Display Team has been flying two red Gnats at airshows for the past four years, but for the coming season a third Gnat (G-MOUR) – in bright yellow – will be part of the routine. G-MOUR will remain in the Yellowjacks Aerobatic Team colours – to pay respect to the display team that was the precursor to the Red Arrows. The jet has been through a major service over the winter and is due to start flying with G-RORI and G-TIMM in the coming weeks. It’s also a two-seater which means other pilots can be trained up to fly the jet.

Mark Fitzgerald, the Chairman of the Heritage Aircraft Trust that operates these jets said, “The Charity is thrilled to be able to offer a three-ship display during this most significant anniversary year for the iconic Folland Gnat. It has taken our engineering team over three years to painstakingly restore G-MOUR (formerly owned by Pink Floyd rock legend Dave Gilmour) to full flying condition, just in time for this important 2014 airshow season.”

Chris Heames (L) and Oli Wheeldon © Darren Harber

Chris Heames (L) and Oli Wheeldon © Darren Harbar

Pilots Mark Fitzgerald (37) and Kevin Whyman (38) will continue to fly the original pair of Gnats and the third aircraft will be flown by Chris Heames (62). The team is also training up other pilots – Oliver Wheeldon (41), Stephen Partridge-Hicks (56) and Edwin Brenninkmeijer (38).

Kev Whyman says the progression from a pairs to a three-ship display brings a multitude of different options as to how they select and sequence manoeuvres so they can enhance the visual spectacle of their displays. “Our experimentation with the various combinations is taking time”, he says. “But we are looking forward to showing off the results of the hard work. The sleek lines of the Gnat undoubtedly make the Vic formation look very elegant in the sky.”

Chris Heames (L) and Oli Wheeldon © Darren Harber

Chris Heames (L) and Oli Wheeldon © Darren Harbar

Team and engineering manager, Oliver Wheeldon, says while the maintenance they have undertaken on G-MOUR has been significant and lengthy, the timing of her reintroduction into the UK air display circuit could not be better. “Not only is the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows first display season being celebrated this year, but it’s also the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Yellowjacks display team”, he says. “G-MOUR is resplendent in her new livery, that of the leader’s aircraft – Flight Lieutenant Lee Jones – XR992, complete with the iconic black tail fin worn by the aircraft during 1964.”

“It has been many years since three Gnats were flown in close formation, so we’re very excited to be putting together a display to showcase these diminutive but beautiful British jets.”

Currently the team is booked for six airshows with the Essex Military Festival and the Belfast Airshow asking them to show off the new three-ship display routine. The team’s first display will be at RIAT on the press day in June with the first three-ship confirmed for the Essex Military Festival on 21/22 June.

Other dates:

RIAT press day 4 June Singleton

Essex Military Festival 21/22 June three-ship

RIAT 11 July Pair on static display

Selsey Lifeboat 3 August Pairs display

Belfast 9 August three-ship

Sywell 17 August Singleton

Global Aviation Resource hopes to bring you more on the Gnat Display Team in due course.