Dave Eade reports on the airshow circuit's newest display team
Take a man who is about to leave the Royal Air Force after some twenty-two years, during which he has been solo Jet Provost and Harrier demonstrator, spent three years as a member of the Red Arrows before becoming their leader and then going on to lead a front-line Harrier unit (4 Squadron) to war in Afghanistan.
Add to this obvious level of supreme leadership skills two further ex-Red Arrow pilots, who have both seen active service, along with a civilian pilot who has over 3,700 hours on sixty types, including aerobatic training. Have four Extra 300LP aircraft built to your specification and you surely have all the ingredients for a world-class aerobatic team.
So it was that on Thursday 4 May the 'Blades' were presented to the press for the first time as the UK's newest display team. Formed as the very public image of 2Excel, a specialist Corporate Entertainment Experience, Leadership Management and Team Building Company, this team performed in front of the gathered media to show off their undoubted skills and to introduce themselves. Along for the ride came JK, lead singer of the rock-band Jamiroquai, whose passion for aviation is well known in the UK.
Blade 1 and Boss is Andy Offer who, as well as the military experience mentioned above has, on many occasions, been seen on the public stage as a pilot in the 'Utterly Butterley' Barnstorming team. The Blades also consists of ex-Red Arrows Andy Evans and colleague Miles Garland (Blades 2 and 3), and bringing up the rear as Blade 4 of the classic box formation is Belgian Bruno Van Waeyenberghe, who for some reason is known as Bruno Brazil. When not working with the team, Bruno heads a company selling the type of aircraft flown by the team.
The pre-flight briefing for the press was given by Operations Director Chris Norton, another ex-Harrier pilot, during which he explained that the team is already booked for forty shows this year and has a queue of pilots at the door wanting to fly with the (hopefully) expanded team of five aircraft by the end of the season. First airing is the Berlin Show in May, and another big date for the team is to open each day of this year's Farnborough Air Show.
The display itself was fluent and packed with manoeuvres designed to thrill the viewing public. Finding a sponsor must be a high priority for a team that has no apparent major backer today - this job must fall on the shoulders of the CEO of 2Excel, Colin Povey. If the launch is any test, the company can certainly put on a good show both in the air and at the corporate entertainment table. We can only wait to see if the airshow-going public needs another Extra team in the wake of the Jordanian Falcons and the Chilean 'Los Halcones' - the former regulars on the show circuit.
Air-Scene UK wishes the Blades and 2Excel every success and extends thanks to Andy Offer, the team and Philippa Hall for making this article possible. Find out more about the team at 2Excel's website.