Having heard that the Red Arrows were coming to his hometown Zhuhai, China, during Half Term, Sutton Valence School pupil and cadet Hongrui (Henry) Zhang successfully applied to be part of the support team.
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team was making history by performing nine public displays in China for the first time in 52 years. During their stay, the team carried out a practice display and many ground engagement activities, including visits to universities, schools and businesses, before the full display in front of thousands of people on the opening day of Airshow China.
Henry was assigned to assist the pilots and ground crew as an interpreter and to help with transport and logistics. “My experience in the RAF section of CCF was a great help”, he said. “I know about protocols and the organisation, so was able to help things run smoothly for them.”
Although given a draft script, Henry translated live during the air show for Red 10 (Squadron Leader Ling) and Red 11 (Wing Commander Higgins, Officer Commanding Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team) as they commentated on the display; the first official Red Arrows commentary in Chinese. Previously, he had been on hand in Air Traffic Control to assist Wg Cdr Higgins and Flt Lt Youle (Flight Operation Officer) during the press day, when he was also involved with British Embassy and Consulate personnel who were promoting the STEM program, British industries and education.
“It was an honour to welcome the Red Arrows to my town”, said Henry. “I have followed the aerobatics team for some time and it was a privilege to be able to help them during this significant visit to my country; being able to engage with some of the best in the RAF is a truly astonishing experience as a pupil and an air cadet.”