You could hear them before you could see them.
The Red Arrows’ jets roared from a distance before releasing red, white and blue smoke as they approached the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Wednesday.
The U.K. Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team left wet Goose Bay, N.L., and flew into sunny skies in Halifax to kick off their North American tour.
“When I first heard the date in August I thought there’s probably a 50-50 chance that it wasn’t going to be raining, but this is great that we have a beautiful sunny day,” Joyce Carter, Halifax International Airport Authority president and CEO, joked after welcoming the group.
Flight Lt. Gregor Ogston, one of two new pilots to join the Red Arrows crew this season, said don’t count out the visual display team if the sky’s not bright and blue.
“We have three shows that we can form at different altitudes, so if the weather is poor we can bring the show down to a different level so people can still see what we’re up to,” Ogston said.
And the Red Arrows have plenty of formations in their back pockets.
“There’s probably two or three manoeuvres that stand out for me,” Ogston said.
“Probably the most dynamic manoeuvre I get to fly is a manoeuvre called rollbacks, where we roll out of formation and we have to rely on our teammates to move out of position because we then slot in to where they were.”
The move, like many others, requires a lot of trust between Ogston and the other eight pilots, he said.
“We gradually build up over a period of months to put together our famous diamond nine,” Ogston said.
“From there, it’s relentless practice for about another three months to take it to the level we’re striving for, which is ultimately perfection if we can achieve it or as close to it as we can make it.”
Over the next 11 weeks, the Red Arrows will perform aerobatic displays and fly-pasts in Canada and the United States. They also will speak with children about science, technology, engineering and math.
The tour marks the Red Arrows first time back in North America in 11 years.
“It has been quite an adventure coming across here, nearly 3,000 miles, which might not sound like a lot when you’re in an airliner, but in a small jet that’s behind me with only internal fuel, that’s quite a long ways,” Wing Cmdr. Andrew Keith said.
“This is where the tour really starts, here in Nova Scotia.”
The Red Arrows will fly over Halifax Harbour on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We believe that we will be the best stop of your tour,” Deputy Premier Karen Casey told the crew.
“You can pass judgment on that later, but when you decide it has been, please let us know.”
The team, made up of 130 men and women, will head west on Tuesday, according to their website.