KARACHI: Despite the blazing sun, the Seaview beach on Thursday afternoon had many people wearing goggles and caps, and looking skywards.
Some of them had also brought umbrellas. And all were waiting for the Red Arrows’ air show.
Said to be the public face of the British Royal Air Force (RAF), the Red Arrows are their aerobatic team known to enthral big crowds with Hawk jets.
The team, comprising pilots, engineers and support staff, are also like goodwill ambassadors for their country. They are in Karachi to celebrate 70 years of friendship between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Pakistan Air Force enjoys cordial relations with the RAF since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
Governor, CM, British high commissioner, corps commander among spectators
Three-year-old cousins Shahryar Salman and Sarim Adnan had their fingers in their ears.
“They are afraid of the sonic boom having experienced it earlier at the Pakistan Air Force base here,” Shahryar’s father Salman Afzal told Dawn.
“But they also don’t want to miss it,” he laughed, adding that they had come to watch all the way from Korangi Industrial Area.
Many children were still in their school uniforms.
“There was no time to take them home for lunch or change clothes as the time announced for the air show was 1.30pm,” said Asma Naveed, a mother, who was there with her three kids, Tayyab, Bakhtawar and little Ibrahim.
“My youngest, Ibrahim, was the one who insisted on being here today. He is still in nursery school. I wish there was some proper programme for schoolchildren here to inform them about the Red Arrows, their aircraft etc.”
“Is the air show even going to happen?” inquired another woman in a black abaya. “We were told 1.30pm but it is 2pm now and it is very hot,” she complained.
Seeing the impatient people, a snake charmer offered to entertain them with his snakes.
“Watch my snakes instead and throw some money my way if you like it later,” he said.
Those who had come unprepared hid under sunshades taken out of their car windows on the exceptionally hot October day.
A few children were also seen pulling out their textbooks from their school bags to block the blaze.
Finally, at 2.30pm the going up of a couple of flares was followed by cheers as a PAF JF-17 Thunder, flown by Wing Commander Yasir Muddassir, arrived to entertain the crowd.
That was when the mobile phones also came out and everyone started clicking.
It was followed by nine Hawk jets of the Red Arrows, led by Squadron Leader David Montenegro, leaving behind red, blue, yellow and white trails.
Flying even as low as 100 feet, they did loops, flips, spins, dives, stalls and other stunts and manoeuvres with agility and precision.
They even drew a heart in the sky as they soared up before leaving among more cheering and oohs and ahs. “It was well worth the wait,” someone said.
The breathtaking event was also witnessed by the Sindh governor, chief minister, British high commissioner, corps commander Karachi along with several other political leaders, parliamentarians and high-ranking civil and military officials.
Air Vice Marshal Haseeb Paracha, Air Officer Commanding, Southern Air Command, received all the dignitaries at the venue.
Earlier in the day, Red Arrows pilots interacted with PAF pilots.
This was the Red Arrows’ third visit to Pakistan. They had held an air show over Islamabad 20 years ago, in 1997.
And last year they made a brief stop in Karachi to refuel. They have flown 4,800 missions around the globe.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2017