Interview with Red Arrow Flight Lieutenant Mike Child
PUBLISHED: 17:46 24 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:15 20 February 2013
The Red Arrows have been as busy as ever in this Diamond Jubilee year. Natalie French speaks to Flight Lieutenant Mike Child about growing up in Chichester and his favourite aerial view of the county
What did you like about growing up in Chichester?
I liked living close to the sea; it gave me plenty of opportunity to go sailing and windsurfing. I also enjoyed the summer holidays as the weather was so good and there was so much to do!
Any favourite haunts as a child?
I enjoyed walking around the South Downs, particularly Kingley Vale and the Trundle. I also spent a lot of time in and around Chichester Harbour as there were so many activities on offer.
How about as an adult?
I went out with friends in Chichester and we used to meet up in a few pubs in the centre of the city. I always found Chichester to have a lively nightlife and it was great to grow up there!
You were educated at Chichester High School for Boys what did you enjoy about your time there?
I loved the fact that the school had a Combined Cadet Force as it gave me the opportunity to fly and take part in RAF activities. I also tried to play as much sport as possible, not that I was any good!
Did you have a favourite teacher?
They were all good.
Did you always want to be a pilot?
Yes, it is one of my first memories!
I wanted to be a pilot before I was five, I dont know where I got my motivation from but I knew I really wanted to fly.
Whats the job specification for any budding potential Red Arrows?
The requirements for being a Red Arrow are that you have flown 1,500 hours and have an above average flying assessment. If you meet these requirements then you are eligible to apply for the team. Each year 40-50 pilots apply to join the team and a shortlist of nine pilots is produced. The nine pilots go out to Cyprus during the teams winter training for a weeks selection and at the end of that three pilots are chosen.
Can you tell us a bit about your CV?
Having finished at Chichester High School for Boys I went to the University of Birmingham to study Environmental Geoscience. Whilst I was studying I learnt to fly with the University Air Squadron at RAF Cosford, West Midlands. I was sponsored by the RAF in my final year at University and joined the RAF in 2001. I completed officer training at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire and went straight on to flying training at various locations in the UK and overseas. In 2005, I became a flying instructor at RAF Valley, Anglesey and was the RAF Hawk display pilot in 2007.
Having completed flying training, I was posted to the Eurofighter Typhoon at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. I served on 3(F) Squadron for two years and went on many exercises around the UK, Middle East and Falkland Islands. I joined the Red Arrows in August 2011 and will spend three years with the team.
What has been the most exciting time in your career with the Royal Air Force?
It would have to be my first afterburner climb in the Eurofighter Typhoon, from releasing the brakes on the runway to being at 37,000 feet took just 90 seconds!
What number Red are you? And what position/formation do you fly?
This year I am Red 3 and fly on the left hand side of Red 1. I manoeuvre around a lot during the display but I am always focusing on Red 1.
What is your trickiest manoeuvre?
A rollback, which is where I roll round the aircraft immediately outside me. When I roll round the other aircraft I am only about 50 feet above it it took a lot of getting used to in training!
Do you feel any nerves when youre loop-the-looping through the sky?
I do feel nervous before a display as I want to give my best performance. As soon as I have started my first manoeuvre the nerves go as I am totally focused on flying in accurate formation.
Do you have any lucky socks etc. that you wear when you fly?
I dont have any lucky socks but I do try to keep the same pair of flying gloves for as long as possible. It is a bit of superstition but pilots generally like to keep flying with the same pair of gloves as they bring good luck!
You get to travel all over the world with your job what have been your favourite destinations?
My favourite destination so far has to be Canada as the scenery is stunning. I spent nine months in Canada on a flying course and managed to visit the Rockies on a number of occasions. The only drawback was the Canadian winter where one day the temperature got down to -47C!
This has been a big year for the UK with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics... it must have made you feel very proud (and patriotic) to have taken part in such events...
I am so privileged to have taken part in the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic events this year. When London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympics I realised that I was in a prime position to apply for the Red Arrows. I did everything I could to get myself in a position to be selected and fortunately it all came together!
Where have you flown over Sussex this year?
The main was the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June. We try and display at the Festival of Speed every year as it is such a prestigious event.
Whats the best aerial view of Sussex?
My favourite aerial view of Sussex has to be the coastline and in particular Selsey Bill. Ive used Selsey Bill as a navigation feature a number of times when Im flying as it is so distinctive.