VE Day: Red Arrows leader tells LBC what it was like flying over London

8 May 2020, 17:44

By Fiona Jones

The Red Arrows leader told LBC what it was like flying over London this morning to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert told Shelagh that while flying the pilots get "one of the best views of London it is possible to get", although they take in the experience after when they get to watch the footage.

He saw snapshots of iconic landmarks connected to the Second World War, such as HMS Belfast, St Paul's, Westminster and Number 10 Downing Street, but generally most of it slips passed as the pilots focus on the task in hand.

Shelagh pointed out this was unlike any other Red Arrows fly-past as the London streets which are normally full of onlookers were comparatively deserted.

Mr Pert, having led the Red Arrows for three years, said "It really was noticeable...you really could get a sense of how empty the streets are.

"Whilst it is sad that the circumstances mean we're not able to go ahead with a huge public event, it doesn't mean we can't mark this important milestone. And actually, the eeriness almost added to the occasion for us, it was really quite emotive what we were commemorating and who we were remembering.

Mr Pert remarked that they also had the air space to themselves today which not only made flying easier but added to the poignancy, allowing them to revel in the moment.

He reflected on how pilots must have felt during the Second World War: "As operational pilots, we know what it must have felt like for anyone involved in that dark period of history and one of the great honours of my role is commemorative events like this, we get the opportunity to spend time with veterans and share experiences of our and their service."

Every one of the nine Red Arrows pilots understood the backdrop of their fly-past today: an appropriate celebration of a generation more susceptible to the coronavirus, Mr Pert said.

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