Female Red Arrow is grounded after deaths

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The Independent Online

The first female pilot to have flown with the Red Arrows is to move to a ground role after two of her teammates were killed in separate tragedies.

Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Stewart, 33, inset, will be reassigned to a non-flying position after the deaths of two pilots from the world famous team last year was said to have had an "adverse effect" on her.

Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, and Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, died within three months of each other.

Flt Lt Egging died in a crash at an air show near Bournemouth Airport in August. Then in December, Flt Lt Cunningham was killed after being ejected from his Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

An RAF source said: "Not many people outside of the Red Arrows will understand the pressure and busy schedule that the team endure through a normal season. These factors have been exacerbated by the tragic events of 2011. This has had an adverse effect on Kirsty and has resulted in the Royal Air Force deciding that it would be more appropriate for the individual and the service if Kirsty is reassigned."

The 33-year-old – who made history in 2009 when she became the first woman in the Red Arrows' aerobatic display team – will be posted to another role within the RAF. Her reposting means the team will have seven jets rather than the usual nine for aerobatic displays this year, although nine will be still used in flypasts.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The Red Arrows will conduct aerobatic displays with seven aircraft rather than the usual nine in 2012 due to the unavoidable posting of one of their pilots.

"With safety paramount, but the quality of the displays vitally important, it has been decided that seven aircraft presents the most visually balanced and dynamic formation.

"The Red Arrows will return to a full aerobatic formation of nine aircraft in 2013," he added.