British Red Arrows Pilot Survives Bird Strike At 100 Feet, 400 MPH


A British Royal Air Force demonstration pilot was both lucky and good during a Welsh airshow performance on Aug. 28. Red Arrows Squadron Leader Gregor Osten—aka Red 6—was making an opposition pass in his Hawk T1-A jet with his counterpart Red 7 at 400 MPH just 100 feet off the ground when he spotted a seagull at the last nanosecond in his peripheral vision.

He said, “I closed my eyes and ducked at that point because it was so close, and the bird hit the canopy, which unfortunately shattered. The bird and lots of the canopy then flew into the cockpit. The impact happened about two seconds before we actually crossed in the middle of the display.”

Osten credits the Red 7 pilot with quick action to avoid his aircraft, helping avert disaster. But that was just the start of the adventure. “My mask ripped from my face and was broken,” he said, “so to transmit on the radio I had to use my left hand to push the button to transmit, my right hand to hold the mask to my face. And that left me flying the aircraft with my knees, briefly.” All ended well, as Osten, in his fourth year flying for the Red Arrows, was able to maneuver for a safe landing at nearby Hawarden Airfield, where the Red Arrows were based for the show.

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Wasn’t there, but if a bird came through the wind screen at 400 mph and 100 AGL talking on the radio would probably be the last thing on my mind …

    • I think if you are one of seven doing 400 mph in tight quarters announcing intentions would be key. These guys are beyond pro.

    • It wouldn’t be the Last Thing… but it’d be after the First Thing… FLY THE AEROPLANE.
      In my career I once shared a cockpit with a former Red Arrows support pilot and those guys are simply the BEST in the business.

  2. So if a bird can do this much harm by penetrating the cockpit glass of a warbird aircraft, what would a .50 caliber shell do the the jet? I am now a bit more tempted to go with an F18.

    • Since the Hawk T1 jet is a trainer, could it be the windshield is not “bulletproof” as on true combat aircraft?