Unpredictable weather means display plans are up in the air

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PERFORMERS, organisers and weather forecasters were due to compare notes this morning to determine whether the Jersey International Air Display could proceed as planned.

With showers and thunderstorms forecast as possible – but not certain – features of today’s weather, spectators face an anxious wait before learning whether this year’s display can start as scheduled at 1.40pm.

The RAF Red Arrows are due to provide the climax of the show, with the seven jets making up the team landing just before 11am yesterday and having a flexible range of plans depending on the weather.

Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat, who holds the call-sign Red 10 and is the team’s supervisor, said the height of the cloud base and the condition of the runway at Jersey Airport were key factors.

Red 10, Squadron Leader Graeme Muscat, who will co-ordinate displays in Guernsey and Jersey from the ground

He said: ‘We have three shows that we can put on: a full display if the clouds are higher than 5,500 feet, a “rolling” show for anything above 2,500 feet, and a flat version for cloud heights down to 1,000 feet.

‘We know that the weather can change, so there’s no point in worrying about it until the morning of the display, when we’ll get our heads together and assess the conditions.’

A cloud height below 1,000 feet is likely to rule out the Red Arrows, while rain may also be a factor limiting the team’s ability to safely land their jets if the runway surface is wet.

Forecaster Rebecca Shutler, of Jersey Met, said there was the potential for both showers and thunderstorms during the day.

She said: ‘Showers are more likely than thunderstorms, but we can’t rule out thunder, and the exact location is very unpredictable as there are minor variations that can affect where they will pop up.’

The weather is likely to be the key factor for the afternoon display in Jersey and the earlier show in Guernsey, which is scheduled to take place between 10.45am and 1.15pm.

Today’s shows come at the end of the Red Arrows’ summer season, which will conclude with displays at the NI International Air Show in Portrush, Northern Ireland, on Saturday and in Newcastle on Sunday as part of the Great North Run.

The team will hope that today’s display will be less eventful than the appearance at the Rhyl Air Show in North Wales last week, when Red 6 was damaged after hitting a seagull. The Hawk jet abandoned the performance and returned to nearby Hawarden Airport near Chester with a large hole visible in the cockpit canopy.

Sq Ldr Muscat, who was co-ordinating the display from the ground, said: ‘It was the sort of thing that is practised on a simulator, although you hope it will never happen.

‘Everything was controlled right away by Red 1 [Squadron Leader Tom Bould] and you could hear from the audio that’s been published how they managed the situation.’

After 27 years with the RAF, Sq Ldr Muscat is just completing his first season with the Red Arrows, who will conclude their 2022 schedule with a tour of the Middle East between late October and early December.

‘This summer has been phenomenal, with really big crowds back at the major displays like Blackpool, Bournemouth and Eastbourne,’ he said. ‘I think there’s been some extra excitement this year, as some of the displays last year and in 2020 were affected by the pandemic.’

Flight Lieutenant Stuart Roberts made the trip to Jersey 12 months ago prior to joining the team officially as Red 2 at the start of 2022.

Flight Lieutenant Stuart Roberts – Red 2 – is nearing the end of his first year flying with the Red Arrows

He said: ‘It was quite daunting last time as that’s when we found out our positions for the following year, but Jersey is a trip the guys always look forward to – it’s a great way to round off the season as quite a lot of our partners come out to join us and we stay a couple of days.’

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