In their first season, 1965, the Red Arrows flew 65 displays in Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany, and the Team was awarded the Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club in recognition of its outstanding contribution to British prestige in the field of aviation. When the Royal Air Force decided to retain the Team for 1966, two spare pilots were established but the Team continued to fly just seven aircraft in most displays. The first display with 9 pilots was in July 1966 for the benefit of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The practice of carrying spare pilots proved unsatisfactory because the display was so specialised that each position had its own demands. To be of any use at all, the spare pilots had to be capable of filling any position at very short notice. Thus, they required more training than any other member of the team and, as a result, became more skilled. Not surprisingly the spares became dissatisfied with their roles as reserves.
The Red Arrows flew nine aircraft in displays from time to time from mid-1966 onwards, but it was not until 1968 that the Team was officially increased in size to nine. Although there was nothing new in flying nine aircraft in a diamond-shaped formation, the Red Arrows’ perfectly symmetrical Diamond Nine quickly came to represent the peak of precision flying and it was eventually registered as an official trade mark.
Since the Team’s creation in 1965, the Red Arrows have flown over 4,000 displays in 52 countries. Today the Red Arrows are renowned throughout the world, acting as ambassadors for Great Britain when displaying overseas. They also support UK industry by demonstrating the capabilities of British equipment and expertise.