Image: The Blades/2Excel Aviation

“The Blades will live on in spirit,” said Andy Offer, 2Excel’s co-founder and director, after it was announced this week its iconic Blades Aerobatic Display Team is to hang up its wings.

Former Red Arrows pilots flew the Extra 300, a low-wing, high-performance aircraft designed for the most adventurous aerobatic manoeuvres, at air shows and events around the world, and made them unique for offering thrilling passenger flying experiences.

Hard decision to make

2022 was the final full season for The Blades Aerobatic Display Team since its debut in 2006, and Offer said it was a ‘hard decision’ to make.

“The decision has not been taken lightly,” he said. “The Blades have been important and iconic for the business since 2Excel was founded. They debuted in 2006 and have been the one constant during the company’s expansion from just four aircraft and five people to the 30 aircraft and almost 500 employees the Group comprises today.

“While it will never feel like the right time to draw a line under this world-class team – the epitome of aerial excellence – the challenges to global economies, the worsening cost-of-living crisis and the protracted hit to disposable incomes this is causing have exacerbated the challenges facing The Blades.”

This comes amid the continued degradation of the air show circuit, with more and more events being lost, meaning fewer opportunities to display and showcase our sponsors to the public.

Offer said due to these factors, it prompted 2Excel’s Board to consider the future of The Blades.

“Regrettably, we concluded it is an unsustainable business model and, in the best interests of all our employee-owners, we needed to take action and redeploy our resources elsewhere within our fast-growing Company. We are seeking to honour all existing bookings.

“The Blades themselves are employees; ex-military fast jet pilots and support staff with desirable skillsets we hope to retain and redeploy elsewhere within the business as we seek to meet increasing demand for 2Excel’s innovative aerospace services. These consultations are ongoing.”

Offer concluded: ‘It’s been our greatest pleasure to entertain everyone and to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences. As one of the original Blades’ pilots, I had the privilege to lead the Team for several years. The concept emerged from the many requests I had during my time in the Red Arrows to take members of the public flying. That was impossible due to the restrictions on flying civilians in military jets. But it made us realise there was potential to provide the experience of a lifetime by taking paying passengers aloft for close formation aerobatics.”

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