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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Black Arrows


Strike Force Entertainment / Cherry Red Records
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: E
Available 01 November 2010

Long before the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows official aerobatic team there was The Black Arrows. Prior to 1955, the RAF did not have an official aerobatics team at all; air shows were left to local commanders to organise what they could. In that year, 54 Squadron flew a formation of four brand new Hawker Hunter aircraft. In 1956, the team dressed in black flying suits and called themselves The Black Knights. Later that year, 111 or 'Treble One' Squadron under the command of Sqn Ldr Roger Topp provided the first official RAF display team and, after a lot of persuading, Roger Topp got his way and the aircraft were all painted black. After an early performance in France, they were applauded as Les Fleches Noir - the name stuck and was translated as the Black Arrows...

The Black Arrows uses archive footage to tell the story of the origins of the RAF's first official aerobatic display team. At 65 mins in length this documentary interviews original pilots and charts the rise of the team to its finale in 1961, when the squadron was re-equipped with the English Electric Lightning. Later in the decade the Red Arrows were born and continued where The Black Arrows left off.

Initially, the Black Arrows were five Hunters and by 1957 the team increased to a nine ship formation, looping and rolling in unison. Each season new manoeuvres and formations, including the Bomb Burst, were added to excite the crowds even more. At the 1958 Farnborough Air Show, the Black Arrows stunned the world with a record breaking loop and barrel roll, using no less than twenty-two Hunters which was, and is, the greatest number of aircraft ever looped in formation.

The extra on the disc, which is longer than the main feature, is collection of mini features (played as one long feature) on the early years of the current RAF display team, The Red Arrows. The Red Arrows: The Early 'GNAT' Years follows the team during the era in which they flew Folland Gnat aircrafts. Also covers other RAF teams of this transitional era: the Yellowjacks, the Firebirds, the Tiger Squadron and the Red Pelicans.

While the production values on both documentaries are a little less polished than they could have been, this is still an interesting addition to any enthusiast's collection.


Nick Smithson

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