Red Arrows announce first female pilot

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The Independent Online

The first woman pilot to join the Red Arrows said today she she had been inspired to go into the RAF by her father.

Speaking of her delight at being selected for the prestigious aerobatics display team, Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore, 32, said her father Robbie Stewart was a retired Tornado navigator.

Earlier this year she saw off competition from up to 40 other pilots keen to join the team, which carries out displays all over the world.

She has been training with them since September and today she spoke to the media for the first time since her successful application.

Flt Lt Moore said: "It's an awesome job. To be told I had been selected was one of the best days of my life. It was incredible.

"The girl thing is an aside for me because I have been a female all my life and I've been a pilot since joining the RAF.

"I know for outsiders it is a big thing but for me it is about timing and someone was always going to be the first woman to join the Red Arrows. I'm lucky enough it's happened to me and I'm very proud.

"It's important to push out there and if you really want to do something, you should go for it. Hopefully in a small way, by me being a Red Arrows pilot, some girls might think that this is something they could be part of and they should go for it."

Flt Lt Moore was speaking at a press conference today at the Red Arrows' base at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln.



Flt Lt Moore joined the RAF in 1998 after studying aeronautical engineering at Imperial College, London.

She is familiar with the Hawk aircraft used by the Red Arrows as she trained fast jet pilots on the aircraft at RAF Valley in Wales.

She has done two operational tours of Iraq with a Tornado squadron based at RAF Marham in Norfolk and it was there that she first thought about joining the display team, which puts on 80-90 shows across the world every year.

She would take up the position of Red Three, just to the left of Red One, which is now occupied by Squadron Leader Ben Murphy.

Flt Lt Moore said returning to Lincolnshire will mean her friends from nearby Stamford will be able to see her training displays.



Video: First female Red Arrow pilot

She saw off up to 40 applicants after first deciding to join the Red Arrows two years ago.

Around 30 of those did not make the grade on paper and only nine were invited to Cyprus to spend a week with the team, during which time they faced a series of interviews as well as training sorties.

Flt Lt Moore is training at RAF Scampton and has to fly two or three times a day in short bursts of 20-30 minutes, something she has described as mentally exhausting.

She said she was most looking forward to doing a display over Windermere in the Lake District.

She has yet to put on the famous red jumpsuit worn by Red Arrows pilots - something she is particularly excited about.



Flt Lt Moore said: "My dad is immensely proud. He encouraged me to join the RAF. The fact I could learn about the aircraft and not just read about them from some glossy brochure gave me then that firsthand experience.

"He is one of those people who everyone loves and I keep on bumping into people who say they know him. Nobody has ever had a bad word to say about him."

Flt Lt Moore, who went to Stamford High School, has been married for four years to Nicky Moore, 34, who is still a flying instructor at RAF Valley.



Red Arrows pilots have to deal with immense forces in the air.

They regularly reach 8G and will have to bear that force for prolonged amounts of time.

A typical rollercoaster will reach 2F or 3G for a matter of seconds.

The Red Arrows also reach speeds of up to 550mph during their typical routines, which include the famous Diamond Nine formation, as well as barrel rolls and loop-the-loops.

Most pilots finish their sorties sweating after doing the equivalent of hundreds of stomach crunches whilst in the air.

The Hawk aircraft has one Rolls Royce engine and is also fitted during displays with canisters filled with a mixture of diesel and red, white and blue dye.

As well as the physical pressures, Flt Lt Moore also has to drive three hours every weekend to see her husband at RAF Valley.

Since they married four years ago, they have not lived together once.

Flt Lt Moore said: "We always have a better relationship because, when we're together, we make sure we have a great time together rather than worry about all the trivial things."

Her brother, Scott Stewart, 34, decided not to follow their father into the RAF.

Flt Lt Moore added: "It's odd for him being in a military family because he has never had any ambition at all to join a military organisation.

"It's not his thing, but he enjoys finding out about my life because it's very different from his."





Flt Lt Moore said she had been subject to some banter from her male colleagues but was not aware of any jokes about women drivers going around.

The flame-haired pilot said: "You can get ribbed for almost everything and the boys will pick up on anything so my hair colour gets a mention but as long as I've got something to come back with, then everything's OK."

Sqn Ldr Murphy, who takes over as Red One this year - the leader of the nine-man team - said Flt Lt Moore was picked for her calm personality as well as her skills as a pilot.

He said: "It is a milestone for the Red Arrows but, that said, we do have female aircrew in all our squadrons and this is a great way of getting the message across to women thinking of joining the Red Arrows.

"She is very calm under pressure but Red Arrow pilots also have to be able to do the job on the ground as well as the flying job and she has a very calm and level-headed approach."

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