'Predatory' Red Arrows pilots treated women as 'property', probe finds

Red Arrows pilots treated women as ‘property’ and predatory behaviour was ‘widespread and normalised’, probe finds

  • The report comes after two Red Arrows pilots were dismissed from the RAF 

Red Arrows pilots treated women as ‘property’ and engaged in ‘widespread and normalised’ predatory behaviour, a probe has found.

An investigation into the UK’s best-known display squad has concluded that women regularly faced unwanted physical contact, sexual texts and invitations to engage in sexual activity.

It also found that the squad had a ‘bystander’ culture which meant none of the behaviour was ever challenged.

The Red Arrows chief of the air staff, Sir Richard Knighton, said he was appalled by the findings and ‘unreservedly’ apologised. 

The RAF has admitted that part of the reason the behaviour was allowed to flourish was because the pilots were seen as ‘special’ due to the fame of the squadron.

The inquiry was launched in 2021 after several women came forward to complain about behaviour they said they suffered at the hands of Red Arrows pilots. They went to the head of the RAF and said complaints they had made had not been taken seriously. 

An investigation into the UK’s best-known display squad has concluded that women regularly faced unwanted physical contact, sexual texts and invitations to engage in sexual activity

Two pilots of the Red Arrows were dismissed following an initial inquiry in 2022

The inquiry examined a period of time dating back to 2017.

Among the incidents highlighted by the report were two of genital exposure. Authors also found that women were viewed as the ‘property’ of either the squadron or individual staff members. 

It also stated that sexual harassment became so normalised that women would ‘club together’ to form ‘shark watches’ in order to protect one another on nights out. 

The results follow an initial inquiry which concluded in 2022 and saw two of the squadron’s pilots dismissed. 

A further nine personnel have faced forms of administrative action, including over what was described as ‘command, leadership and management’ failings, the RAF revealed.

It added it has since instigated leadership and policy changes to prevent such behaviour happening again. 

The report from the RAF said: ‘All of the females expressed their concern, without solicitation, that they were not showing moral courage by not speaking out and they could be enabling the situation to happen to other women, but they had to balance this against the reality that they felt likely to suffer a detriment on a day to day basis and they had worked hard to get where they were and they did not want to sacrifice their position.’

It added that examples of sexual harassment were ‘not challenged’ and  that there was was ‘a bystander culture… and an unwillingness to take action that could be viewed as unpopular’.

The probe found that a ‘bystander culture’ existed at the Red Arrows with an ‘unwillingness to take action’

Instead, it said a culture of ‘loyalty’ meant that incidents were dismissed so as to avoid damage to individuals’ careers.

READ MORE: Another pilot is axed from Red Arrows in shame: Two shocking cases bring disgrace to our Armed Forces

Meanwhile a ‘high propensity of extra marital relationships between serving personnel’ could have contributed to a ‘low opinion of female service personnel’ among male staff members. 

The probe also exposed a culture of alcohol among the Red Arrows, which it said not only contributed to incidents of harassment but also raised concerns over flying safety.

It added that alcohol was seen as a ‘mitigating factor’ when it should have been seen as an ‘aggravating’ one. 

Some of the women who say they have been victims of unacceptable behaviour while working with the squadron previously told the Mail the Red Arrows should be disbanded. 

This followed the dismissal last year of Flight Lieutenant Damon Green, who was promoted within the squadron despite facing allegations of sexual assault. He was not charged with the alleged offences.

Responding to the 76-page report, Air Chief Marshal Knighton said: ‘I am sorry and offer my unreserved apologies to any individuals that were subjected to unacceptable behaviours during their association with the Red Arrows, particularly the three women who felt they had no option but to raise their complaints directly with my predecessor.’ 

The inquiry heard from more than 40 witnesses, although many of the exact allegations and identities of those involved have been redacted. 

There are a total of more than 100 crew associated with the Red Arrows including pilots and ground crew.

This is a breaking news story and is being updated. 

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