Eagle Profile

A “Kiwi” by birth, Ray Hanna was destined to earn wings and fly. At the age of six he and his parents often went out to a grass airfield near Auckland, New Zealand, just to watch the airplanes. Inspired by these trips, Hanna earned his pilot’s license through his nation’s Air Force Cadet Program. With little chance to gain an active commission in his own country, Hanna worked his passage to England in 1949. Repeated calls at the Air Ministry in London soon paid off and he entered the Royal Air Force. During his initial flight training, Hanna demonstrated such skill that he was able to earn a place in a fighter reconnaissance course at RAF Stradishall. It was an unprecedented reward for a pilot with his limited experience. From there he was posted to 79 Squadron at RAF Guttersloh in Germany.

In this assignment he continued to hone his skills, flying Meteor FR.9s at altitudes “never above 100 feet.” After four years in Germany, Hanna was transferred to the overseas ferry wing at RAF Benson. In this posting he flew a variety of British fighters, including the Hawker Hunter, Gloster Javelin, and Supermarine Swift. When his commission ended, Hanna returned briefly to his homeland, but rejoined the RAF in 1963 to attend the Central Flying School. After that he became an instructor at the College of Air Warfare, where he flew Meteor F.8s as a member of the College’s aerobatics team. In 1965 Hanna was selected to fly as number 3 in the newly formed Red Arrows at RAF Fairford.

Within a year he became the team’s leader, a position he would hold for the next four years. Shortly after completing his tour with the Red Arrows, Hanna left the service, working briefly for a charter company, then for Cathay Pacific Airlines. He left Cathay Pacific in 1979 to take his present position as chief pilot for a private company operating a Swiss-based Boeing 707 business jet. In addition to directing flight operations in Switzerland, Hanna, a bonafide aviation enthusiast, founded the Old Flying Machine Company. The company, a consortium and family partnership, boasts one of the largest collections of flying warbirds in the world.

It is based at the Imperial War Museum’s airfield at Duxford, just north of London.  In addition to flying the Mustang, Spitfire, and other warbirds at air shows across Europe, Hanna   has flown in several movies including “Empire of the Sun”, “Memphis Belle,” and the television mini-series “Piece of Cake.” No flightless bird, Ray Hanna has logged over 15,000 flying hours in over 100 aircraft types, and successfully turned a passion for flight into a lifetime’s work.

Years Honored:


1993 Lithograph

Lithograph Setting(s):

As the Red Arrows' leader during the 1966-1969 show seasons, Ray Hanna played a key role in developing one of most famous aerial demonstration teams in the world. Under his superb leadership the Red Arrows created the nine-ship formation their distinctive aerial "signature." Hanna was key in developing the dynamic show sequence which thrilled millions of people at air shows throughout Europe and North America. He continues to use the skills he refined with the Red Arrows flying warbirds today in airshows across the United Kingdom and Europe.