Crack RAF pilot's journey from Northamptonshire school student to flying high with the Red Arrows
“It still seems very surreal, I have to pinch myself at times that I’ve done it," says acrobatic team's newest recruit
Guilsborough Academy students can properly reach for the sky after a scholar from a few years ago joined the Red Arrows.
Flight Lieutenant Patrick Kershaw is one of three new pilots on the RAF's world famous acrobatic team.
Flt Lt Kershaw joined the RAF in 2006, three years after leaving Guilsborough and heading to university to earn a degree in business administration.
Since then, he's done the business by clocking up more than 1,500 flying hours in Typhoon and Tornado jet aircraft including stints in war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya..
But taking up the Red Three call sign among the nine Red Arrows display aircraft for the team's 58th season will be a whole new ball game
The 36-year-old told the Chronicle & Echo sister title, the Harborough Mail: “It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to join the Red Arrows team for 2022.
“It still does seem very surreal, I have to pinch myself at times that I’ve done it! It’s just incredible.
“It’s a huge responsibility as well because we are showcasing the best of the Royal Air Force and representing the RAF as well as the UK.
“And all of us in the Red Arrows have to trust each other implicitly with our lives.
“But that’s where all the excellent training, the discipline, the skills and the expertise that we have built up over the years in the RAF kicks in.”
Flt Lt Kershaw, whose parents still live near Market Harborough, narrowly missed out on a Red Arrows seat in 2019 before giving it another shot in April this year.
He said: “We all flew off to Greece in the spring for the very demanding selection process.
“We had to do two loops and two barrel rolls very close up to see how smooth your flying is and check your ability.
“We flew up to three times a day in our Hawk T1 so it was pretty high-powered.
“I obviously had some nerves after I was disappointed not to make it in 2019. It was a setback at the time and frustrating I couldn’t apply again last year, because of Covid.
“But most pilots pass on their second or third attempts anyway. Perseverance is critical in the military – and I was determined to try again.”
The Red Arrows whizz over Northamptonshire five or six times a year on route to displays — details of their 2022 calendar will be released in the New Year.
And Flt Lt Kershaw is sure to have a special wave for his old school if he gets the chance.
The crack airman is already training with his new team-mates in Wales and in North Yorkshire before taking up residence at the Red Arrows regular base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
He added: “We all need supreme coolness, presence of mind and the ability to think and act on the spot.
“My wife thinks it’s funny because I might get stressed out about something at home.
“She tells me I’m a fighter jet pilot, I shouldn’t get stressed!
“But when I go to work I’m doing the job I’ve been training for at the highest levels for years. I’m very confident in my own ability but you learn to trust and rely on your colleagues’ abilities as well – it becomes second nature."