Andy Bishop, Health & Safety Consultant

I watched the Red Arrows a couple of weeks ago when they performed at the finale of Cowes Week, they were, as ever amazing.  There is something quintessentially British about watching those 9 red aircraft perform death defying feats of precision formation flying and aerobatics in the skies above our green and pleasant land.

The best display I’ve ever seen was one that I forgot was happening.  The scheduled flypast had been cancelled and I was gutted. Then a few days later I was sitting in my lounge watching football when the unmistakable roar of five Hawk trainer jet aircraft made me jump out of my seat and rush outside.  The five ship Enid team were executing a perfect steep banked turn as they ran in to the target area to perform the ‘Goose’ right over my house! They were so low I swear that Red 3 winked at me as he saw me leaping about in my garden like a giddy schoolboy!

I remember watching them training over the skies in Cyprus and going through the rigorous selection process that every one of the Reds must go through before they get issued with the world-famous Red Overalls.  They truly are the best of the best, pushing the very limits of human performance with split second reaction times and nerves of steel.

The selection process for the Red Arrows takes longer that the display season lasts.  Before they are even considered for the role they must have amassed 1500hrs flying time, at least one operational tour and be regularly assessed as above average flyers.  Only three pilots are replaced every year and their tour of duty as a Red lasts three years.  The Team Leader must have completed a flying tour to be considered and undergoes the same assessment process as the remaining members of the team.  One of the most important aspects of this is team cohesion, if their character doesn’t fit the team, they won’t get in, it’s a s simple as that.

For me the Red Arrows epitomise the word team, they seem to magically know what each other is doing and they can focus on seemingly impossible situations at a rapid rate. They are also cool characters, if you have ever been lucky enough to meet them after a sortie, it’s amazing just how cool they are, they climb out of the cockpit and saunter over to the reception area like you and I would walk to the front door of the supermarket after pulling off a skilled reverse parking manoeuvre in the car park.

The reason they can do this is because they operate in their peak performance zone.  They have arrived there following years of intensive training and months of rehearsals for each display that only lasts for fifteen minutes.

Can you imagine the carnage that would result if they didn’t go through all those hours of training and preparation? It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Within our own workforces we should treat each employee the same as a Red Arrows pilot, we might not expose them to the same levels of performance requirement, but we will expose them to work related stresses if not positively managed.  We need to give them the correct skills to develop in their field and regularly assess and monitor the demands that we place on them.  They should have a clearly defined job role that lets everyone know exactly what is always expected of them. We should foster good working relationships between all our staff and treat all team members with respect.  If people don’t understand something or are worried by anything at all we must have the means to offer encouragement and support.

To learn more about managing stress within your workforce, why not book onto our new Mental Health Awareness- Preventing and Managing Occupational Stress course.

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