THE first woman to fly with the Red Arrows team has been posted to a ground role.
Flt Lt Kirsty Stewart, 33, joined the aerobatic display team in 2010 and this year was due to be her third and final year.
But the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Flt Lt Stewart, who flew in the Red 9 position, has been moved to a ground role for up to six months.
In her absence, the Red Arrows, which usually flies in a nine aircraft formation will this year fly in a seven-ship formation.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said her departure was not due to disciplinary matters.
He said: “The Red Arrows will conduct aerobatic displays with seven aircraft rather than the usual nine in 2012 due to the unavoidable posting of one of their pilots. We will not comment on personnel issues nor individual postings.
“With safety paramount — but the quality of the displays vitally important — it has been decided that seven aircraft presents the most visually-balanced and dynamic formation.”
He added: “The team will still carry out official flypasts, such as the diamond jubilee which we hope to be involved in, with nine aircraft.”
The spokesman said members of the support crew, who are trained to fly the aircraft will take the other two positions during official flypasts. The Red Arrows will return to the full formation next year.
Each pilot flies with the display team for three years and there are no reserve pilots.
It follows a difficult year for the Red Arrows.
Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, of Morcott, died in a crash in August following a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival.
In November, Flt Lt Sean Cunningham, 35, was killed when he was ejected from his aircraft while it was on the runway at the Red Arrows’ base at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln.