The Queen and prominent members of the royal family will attend a day of events including a Buckingham Palace flypast as the Royal Air Force celebrates its centenary year.
It was 100 years ago on April 1 1918 that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF – the world’s first independent air service.
Beginning with a service at Westminster Abbey, the Queen will be joined by family members including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Along with Charles, she will then present a new Queen’s Colour to the RAF in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace before making a brief speech.
The royals will then appear on the balcony of the Queen’s London residence to view a flypast of up to 100 RAF aircraft, a parade of more than 1,000 personnel, and a feu de joie.
Air-Vice Marshal Gerry Mayhew, the air officer commanding No 1 group and the senior responsible officer for the flypast, said the day is the “centrepiece” of the RAF’s 100th year.
“It is the high point for the capital, Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family,” he told the Press Association.
“And it is a great opportunity to look back and really celebrate our past, but to look forward is a really important thing for us as we look to the next 100 years.”
He described being at the forefront of the flypast as a “great honour”, and said he hopes the Queen and royal family will see “exactly what they can do” for the monarch.
Charles, Camilla, William, Harry and Meghan will also meet veterans, personnel, charity representatives and those from the civil service in a reception after the spectacle.
Just 15 years after the first-ever powered flight undertaken by the Wright brothers, the decision to create the RAF was made after the War Cabinet inquiry criticised the poor organisation of Britain’s air forces.
Those recognised as the founders of the RAF include Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson and Lord Hugh Trenchard – the first chief of the air staff.
The flypast is set to feature aircraft including Puma and Chinook helicopters, a Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricanes, the A400M Atlas, Tornados, Typhoons and the F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Drawing the spectacle to a close will be the Red Arrows, who in traditional aerobatic style will stream red, white and blue smoke down the length of The Mall.
The officer commanding the Red Arrows, Wing Commander Andrew Keith, who took the helm in August, said it is an incredible year to be leading them.
“We will put the red, white and blue on at the end of the flypast, which I think is a fitting way to end it, which is great,” he said.
During the flypast, he said he will be flying in the formation in the back seat of the team leader’s jet, “getting a few photos”.
“It is going to be business as usual for us – and hopefully clocking over that 100th aircraft,” he said when asked if they will be doing anything different on the day.