With deep sadness I report that my good friend Ray Hanna died suddenly yesterday afternoon.
Ray, who was 77 years, joined the Royal Air Force in 1949 having learned to fly in his native New Zealand in 1947-48. Following training on the Prentice, Harvard and Meteor he was fortunate enough to fly such piston types as the 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.
Ray first led a team of four Hunters in 1957, in 1963-64 was a member of the College of Air Warfare Meteor Team and, in 1965, was selected for the newly-formed Red Arrows as Red 3. He was appointed Leader the following year and remains the longest serving Leader in the history of the team.
His outstanding leadership is acknowledged as having made the Arrows the world-renowned aerobatics team they became and, in recognition, a Bar was added to the AFC he had previously been awarded for several feats of outstanding airmanship as a fighter pilot.
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.
In 1979 he was asked to head a private diplomatic 707 company with world-wide operations.
With his son Mark, who was so tragically killed flying an Me109 six years ago, he built up a vintage warbird collection at Duxford which ultimately became the renowned 'Old Flying Machine Company.' In addition to achieving acclaim on the display circuit, the OFMC has numerous movie credits.
The Master in action
Ray was undoubtedly one of the finest display pilots ever, and widely regarded as the best of the best.
Ray displaying his famous Mark IX Spitfire MH434 was a joy to behold, and a sight which will be sorely missed on the display circuit.
Most important of all, Ray was a fine man, a true gentleman. Not only did I have enormous admiration for his outstanding talent as a pilot and respect for him as a man, but I regard it as an honour to have been a friend.