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Ray Hanna

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Ray Hanna

Ray Hanna
Born 28 August 1928
Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand
Died 1 December 2005(2005-12-01) (aged 77)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1949–1971
Rank Squadron Leader
Commands held The Red Arrows

AFC (with bar) (28 August 1928 – 1 December 2005) was a New Zealand-born pilot in the Royal Air Force and a number of civilian companies. During his time in the RAF, he was a founding member of the Red Arrows. He also founded the Old Flying Machine Company and regularly flew aircraft from his vintage warbird collection at airshows around the world.

RAF career

Hanna learned to fly in New Zealand in 1947/48 before joining the RAF in 1949. During his initial training, he flew types such as the Percival Prentice, North American Harvard and Gloster Meteor. He went on to fly types including the Hawker Tempest, Hawker Sea Fury and Bristol Beaufighter.

His first operational posting was to No. 79 Squadron RAF, flying the Meteor FR.9 as part of the NATO Second Allied Tactical Air Force. Hanna flew a number of early British jet aircraft in this period, including the de Havilland Vampire, de Havilland Venom, Supermarine Attacker, Hawker Sea Hawk, Supermarine Swift and Gloster Javelin. Early in his career, Hanna had the opportunity to become involved with aerial display teams, first as the leader of a four-ship Hunter display team in 1957 and then, in 1963–64, as a member of a Meteor display team operated by the College of Air Warfare.

In 1965, Hanna became a member of the Red Arrows display team as 'Red 3'. The following year, he became the team leader, 'Red 1', a post which he held for a record four years. During this time, Hanna oversaw the enlargement of the team to nine Folland Gnat T.Mk1 aircraft, making possible the inclusion of the diamond-nine formation which is a staple feature of Red Arrows display routines to this day. During this period, the Red Arrows became a permanent squadron as part of the Central Flying School. Hanna left the RAF in 1971.

Post-RAF flying career

Ray Hanna in the cockpit of Spitfire MH434 at Biggin Hill, 2004

After he left the RAF, Hanna flew Boeing 707s for Lloyd International and then spent seven years with Cathay Pacific, flying 707s and Lockheed Tristars. He then headed a company operating Boeing 707s. It was during this time that Hanna was asked by the Chairman of Cathay Pacific, Sir Adrian Swire, to display Swire's Spitfire LFIXb, MH434. This was the beginning of a long association between Hanna and this particular aircraft that would last until his death. In 1981, Hanna and his son Mark established the Old Flying Machine Company (OFMC), based at Duxford, UK to operate and display a number of vintage military aircraft. In 1983, the OFMC bought MH434 at auction.

The aircraft and pilots of the OFMC featured in a number of films and television programmes, including Piece of Cake, Empire of the Sun, Memphis Belle, Saving Private Ryan and Tomorrow Never Dies. Hanna flew his Spitfire under the bridge at Winston, near Barnard Castle, for a scene in Piece of Cake.[1]

Hanna performed for the final time in October 2005 at the annual Duxford Autumn Airshow. He died in Switzerland of natural causes on December 1, 2005 and was buried at St Mary's Church, Parham in Suffolk on December 15, 2005.

Sqn Ldr Ray Hanna AFC*


  1. ^ Piece of CakeFootage of Hanna's work for on YouTube
  • Dunnell, Ben (February 2006). "Ray Hanna 1928–2005". Aircraft Illustrated (Ian Allan Publishing) (February): 28. 

External links

  • "Eulogy at Thanksgiving Service for Squadron Leader Ray Hanna AFC*". His Honour Judge Tudor Owen FRAeS. 2006-03-20. 
  • "Tributes to Sqn Ldr Ray Hanna AFC*". Professional Pilots website. 2005-12-20. 
  • "Obituary: Squadron Leader Ray Hanna AFC*". The Times. 2005-12-10. Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
  • "Obituary: Squadron Leader Ray Hanna". The Telegraph. 2005-12-05. Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
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