Ray Hanna Tribute Title Image

Ray Hanna Tribute

1928 - 2005.

Ask any aviation enthusiast to name their favourite memories of air display flying over the years and most will include a particularly low or spectacular routine by one Ray Hanna, AFC and bar, in his Spitfire IX, MH434. Man and machine in perfect harmony. Ray passed away peacefully on the first day of December 2005, at his home in Basle, Switzerland, leaving behind an incredible legacy, which is unlikely to ever be matched. A sad loss felt by all.

UK Airshow Review pays tribute to a true giant in aviation.

Ray was born in Takapuna, New Zealand on August 28 1928, learning to fly in his homeland, before coming to the UK and joining the RAF in 1949. So began an incredible career of flying which in its early days included such types as the Prentice, Harvard, Tempest V, Sea Fury, Balliol and Beaufighter. His first operational posting was to 79 Squadron, 2ATAF flying FR9 Meteors. In the fifties, he flew nearly all the early British jets including Vampires, Venoms, Attackers, Sea Hawks, Swifts and Javelins. Then came formation flying. In 1957 Ray led a team of four Hunters, and in 1963-64 was a member of the College of Air Warfare Meteor Team. In 1965 the newly formed Red Arrows selected Ray as their number 3. His later appointment as leader of the team is widely recognised as being a major factor in the 'Reds' becoming the world-renowned aerobatics team that they ultimately became. Ray's 'Diamond nine' formation is still the team's trademark. It was during this period that Ray received a bar to his previous AFC decoration.

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Ray retired from the RAF in 1971 for a new career in civil aviation, initially flying the Boeing 707 with Lloyd International Airways, followed by seven years with Cathay Pacific, again flying the 707, and for two years the L-1011 Tri-Star. Later he headed a private diplomatic 707 company with worldwide operations.

Then came a second period of performing before an adoring public when Ray piloted other owner's machinery and then, with son Mark (tragically later to be killed in a flying accident), began to gather a fleet of Warbirds at Duxford. Regularly flying at airshows and appearing for film and television work, the Old Flying Machine Company included, among it's number, possibly the World's most famous Warbird - Supermarine Spitfire IX MH434 - which has become synonymous with Ray, and which is the display mount in which most of us will remember him by.

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His other favoured fighter was the P-40, which he eventually took back home to New Zealand for an appearance at the Wanaka airshow in 2004 - a show that he has supported for many years and at which the Breitling Fighters display team of four warbird fighters made their last outing. The 'Breitlings' had been a revelation on the UK airshow scene with their tight formation flying - yet another mile-stone in the legacy given to us by Ray Hanna.

Ray, at the grand age of 77, was flying displays just a few months ago in his inimitable style, and that at Biggin was especially memorable. It will perhaps take some time for us to come to terms with the loss, but we must be grateful for everything he gave to us and cherish the memories. He leaves behind Eunice - his wife for nearly fifty years - and a daughter, Sarah. Our thoughts and sympathies go to them, along with our thanks and appreciation for all the pleasure and emotions that Ray gave to us throughout his life.

Rest in peace Ray. We salute you.