DH - Defence Helicopter

All change for the Army's Blue Eagles

9th November 2008 - 13:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The British Army's world famous helicopter display team, The Blue Eagles, is to disband for 2009 because of operational commitments.

The Middle Wallop based team, will be replaced by a solo Lynx display and a limited number of Apache displays at just eight major events in 2009, due to Army assets being allocated to Joint Helicopter Command.

Initially formed in 1968, flying five Bell Sioux helicopters, the helicopters used by the team have changed over the years - but the underlying concept has remained the same. Using instructors from the School of Army Aviation, Middle Wallop, as volunteers to form the core of the Team, the AAC provides a unique presence in the world of aerobatic displays with the aim of showing their skills to a wider audience. The Team has continued under the names: Eagles, Sparrow Hawks and for the AAC's 25th anniversary, the Silver Eagles.

In 1994, following an unbroken 26 years of Army Display Flying, the team was allowed to revert to its original title, the Blue Eagles. From 1995 to 2007, the Blue Eagles standardised on one Lynx and four Gazelles. In some years they incorporated the Army Historic Flight's fixed and rotary wing aircraft in the display.

In 2008, a quite different team was formed to celebrate 40 years of the Blue Eagles, in the one hundredth year of Army Aviation. This introduced three more types to complement the Lynx and Gazelle - a Scout and Alouette II from the Army Historic Aircraft Flight and, at a limited number of venues, an Apache attack helicopter. The Scout, Alouette and Gazelle performed together in the traditional way, while the Lynx demonstrated its unique ability to backflip, loop and roll.

Maj George Bacon, Air Displays Manager at the AAC Centre said: "This is a realistic adjustment of the Blue Eagles format for the immediate future. Whilst disappointing, it reflects current operational constraints but is certainly not the end of Army aviation's engagement with the public. Over the past 40 years the team has had a pivotal role in recruitment and PR and will continue to do so for as long as possible. Meanwhile, the Historic Flight will continue flying as a memorial and commemoration asset but not as a composite display team."

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