The RAF Falcons
are recognised as the UK's premier military parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...
They perform their unique and colourful aerial display at numerous venues nationwide and are renowned for their famous 11-person non-contact canopy stack display routine.
Based at RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, about west north-west of London, is the largest station of the Royal Air Force. It is close to the settlements of Brize Norton, Carterton and Witney....
as part of the No. 1 Parachute Training School, the RAF Falcons undertake extensive preparation as display parachuting requires hard work, a high level of skill and trust in other team members and their equipment. Members do a 3 year tour on the Display Team.
The display season is from May to September and during the off season the team spend 3 months in Southern California training for both the Display Season and gaining qualifications appointments after the Falcons.
The RAF Falcons normally jump from a C-130K Hercules, the K model is the stretched version of the Hercules. On the occasion, The Falcons will jump from a Chinook tandem rotor helicopter.
A team of six men, nicknamed the Big Six, from No. 1 Parachute Training School was formed in 1961 at the school's base which at that time was RAF Abingdon
RAF Abingdon was a Royal Air Force station near Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is now known as Dalton Barracks and is used by the Royal Logistic Corps....
. The Big Six were the first to jump from large military aircraft such as the Beverley
The Blackburn B-101 Beverley was a 1950s British heavy transport aircraft built by Blackburn and General Aircraft and flown by squadrons of Royal Air Force Transport Command from 1957 until 1967.-Design and development:...
- a feat previously thought impossible on the premise that anybody trying to exit from the ramp would be sucked back by the air turbulence. A popular attraction at air displays, the team was doubled in size and in 1965 was adopted by the RAF as their official display team, and named The Falcons.
In 1967 the team set a British record with a six-man link above the el Adam desert in North Africa. As part of the RAF's 50th anniversary display in 1968 the Falcons performed before the Queen for the first time.
The C-130 Hercules aircraft was introduced for Falcons displays in 1970, and the team subsequently set a new British record with an eight-man star. They performed before the Queen again in the early 1970s and for a third time in 1977. The following year, the Strato Cloud ram air parachute was introduced, replacing the Para Commander parachute that had been used since 1965. The Falcons performed in front of the Prince of Wales and made their first team display into central London in 1979.
The Falcons' first use of helmet mounted video took place in 1981. Two years later, another new parachute was introduced; the GQ236 ram air parachute. The Falcons opened the Royal Tournament in 1983 by jumping into Horse Guards Parade
Horse Guards Parade is a large parade ground off Whitehall in central London, at grid reference . It is the site of the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour, which commemorates the monarch's official birthday, and Beating Retreat.-History:...
. In 1986, the Falcons made their first night descent in the UK, at the Officers' Mess at RAF Brize Norton.