Red Arrows fly two pilots short after Sean Cunningham tragedy

By Matthew Bates 19/03 Updated: 20/03 20:53

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Buy photos » Flt Lt Sean Cunningham died after he was ejected from a grounded plane at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. (s)

THE FAMOUS Diamond Nine formation held by the Red Arrows has been axed after the death of city pilot Sean Cunningham.

The stunt team confirmed it would feature just seven aircraft this year and comes as Flight Lieutenant Cunningham's colleague Kirsty Stewart quit - reportedly due to stress suffered following his death.

He was killed in November, just three months after fellow pilot Jon Egging, from Southam, Warwickshire, died during an airshow in Bournemouth.

An inquest found Flt Lt Cunningham, 35, died of multiple injuries after he was ejected from a grounded plane and his parachute failed at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

Bosses said the last few months had been some of the hardest endured in the group's 47-year history.

But squadron leader Jim Turner insisted the group was determined to put the tragedies behind them and 'continue in true RAF spirit'.

"The 2012 display will conform to a traditional format of synchronised formation aerobatics during the first half of the display followed by a more dynamic second half.

"The ‘Synchro Pair’ will be retained and perform the traditional opposition manoeuvres for which they are renowned."

He added signature events, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, would be supported by Red Arrows fly pasts using nine aircraft.

The remaining pilots left for Cyprus on Thursday (March 15) for nine weeks of intensive training.

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