RAPID CITY — As they wrap up an 11-week tour of the U.S. and Canada, the Royal Air Force’s acrobatic display team known the world over as the Red Arrows streaked across the skies above Mt. Rushmore Tuesday before being the guests of honor at a dinner hosted by the British Consulate out of Chicago, Fermilab, and the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) at the Vertex Sky Bar in Rapid City.
“The Royal Air Force (RAF) had loads of display teams,” said Red Arrow Wing Commander Andrew Keith. “So the RAF decided to form a professional display team mainly so the rest of them could focus on their
The Reds, as they refer to themselves, have been soaring through the skies since 1964. This is only their second time touring in North America.
“I think the reaction we’ve had has been brilliant,” Keith said. “Household names (like) The Blue Angels, The Thunderbirds; (Americans) know of the Red Arrows, they’ve heard of us, but I don’t think a lot of people have seen us displayed before, so I think they find it quite special.”
The squadron has been flying across the United States and Canada since August performing shows, flying past monuments for photo opportunities, and educating school students about the kind of scientific and technological collaborations going on between the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We do represent the Royal Air Force and all the men and women that serve, but we also represent UK defense and of course those US and UK defense partnerships and then also above that we’re representing the UK in general,” Keith said. “We do a lot with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well. A lot with younger people obviously trying to inspire them, trying to get that next generation of workforce through.”
The nine planes, BAE System’s Hawk T1s, their pilots, support staff, and engineers spent the night at Ellsworth Air Force Base before striking
out on their long journey back across the Atlantic making refueling stops in Canada, Greenland and Iceland along the way.
“Our last display might have finished, but we’re still displaying as the Red Arrows wherever we arrive,” said Keith.
Representatives from the British Consulate, Fermilab, and SURF were on hand for a dinner in honor of the Reds and the ongoing scientific and technological
relations between the UK and the US.
“We have a two-fold reason for being here this evening, we are here to celebrate the UK collaboration in science with South Dakota, but we’re also
here to say a final farewell and thank you to the Red Arrows,” said UK Deputy Consul General Maria Rennie. In 2017, UK Minister Joe Johnson, the younger brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, signed an agreement with Fermilab committing $88 million (£65 million), to the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/
Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE) project, which is currently under construction at the Sanford Underground research Facility
(SURF) in Lead.
The agreement is the first of its kind between the United Kingdom and the United States.
“I remember distinctly, Minister Johnson saying he was sorry the amount was so small, but that’s all he had at the time,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer with a laugh. “So we’re gonna hold him to that. The first science and technology agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom
was driven by neutrino physics, which nobody believes when they hear it …
but that’s a fact,” he added.
Rennie said that, as a diplomat,the collaboration has a special meaning to her.
“The work that you’re doing here, it’s so interesting, and it’s so globally
relevant and for that reason it encourages international collaboration and for a diplomat that’s just absolutely fantastic, so it’s really great to be here and to celebrate that this evening,” Rennie said. “I’m aware of the fact that we have
a number of British scientists in leading positions with the DUNE project. And I believe we have right around 125 scientists back in the UK across about 16 institutions supporting this project, so there’s a really sort of human side to this collaboration.”
Mike Headley, executive director of the SDSTA and laboratory director at SURF, expressed gratitude to the UK, not only for their contribution to the LBNF/DUNE project, but also for the long-standing collaboration with the LUXZEPLIN dark matter detector, which is set to go online in early 2020.
“Major portions of the experimental hardware (used in the experiment) have been provided by the UK,” he said. “We are very proud to be partnered with (the UK) and to be partnered with Nigel and Fermilab and be a part of DUNE and the other experiments that we’re working on and welcome to South Dakota, we’re glad you’re here.”
That sentiment was shared by Lockyer and Rennie as well.
“I see a great collaboration in the future, there’ll be lots of Brits in South Dakota when the experiment starts being built and it’s gonna be a lot of fun
having them here,” Lockyer said.
“(I) Also look forward to a very long and enduring relationship here in South Dakota," Rennie added.