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Seven years strong: The Blades renew partnership with RAF Benevolent Fund

The Blades Aerobatic Team is thrilled to announce its seventh year in partnership with the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF's leading welfare charity.  

As the team is made up of former RAF fast-jet pilots, the Blades are committed to raising vital funds and awareness of the charity. The long-standing partnership, conceived in 2014, has so far raised more than £190,000 to support the whole of the RAF Family.

A variety of virtual and live activities are planned for 2021, and despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the team remain confident about the year ahead.   

Team Leader and Blade 1 Andy Evans said: "We are extremely proud to support the RAF Benevolent Fund for a seventh year. Our partnership is both inspiring and rewarding, and together we have achieved so much.

"Fundraising last year was extremely difficult and the evaporation of the air show season hindered how many people we could reach – usually, we display to three to four million per year! However, I am delighted that we were able to maximise some key opportunities, raising over £35,000 around the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. 

"This year may present some challenges as the pandemic continues, but the team is looking forward to building on the success of the partnership in 2021 and doing as much as we can to spread the Fund’s message."

This year will see the Blades strive to support the Fund in a variety of ways, including taking part in a virtual event for International Women's Day in March, proposed air show events and engaging the team's social media and private flyers' community.  

Blades' pilot James McMillan will be leading the team's fundraising efforts by completing the Fund’s 100-mile Dambusters Ride in Lincolnshire, and a team of employees from 2Excel Aviation, the Blades' parent company, will be joining the ride too. 

Mike Straney, Director of Fundraising and Communications at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: ‘"We're incredibly proud of what we've achieved with the Blades over the last year, despite the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has posed. Having supported pilots Andy Evans and Mike Ling directly, we know how much this relationship means to the whole of the Blades team.

"Thanks to the Blades' unwavering support, we've been able to continue providing welfare services for the RAF Family. We're hugely looking forward to the year ahead, building on the partnership to continue supporting RAF personnel, veterans and their families."

The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, free memberships for Headspace, Airplay youth clubs, and more.

About the Blades

The Blades are a leading aerobatic display team consisting of former Red Arrow pilots renowned worldwide for their flying precision, close-formation aerobatics and cutting-edge display. The Blades' pilots have over 25,000 flying hours between and 2021 marks the team's sixteenth display season. The Blades Team is the only aerobatic airline in the world, offering passengers the opportunity to fly close-formation aerobatics in the team's Extra300 aircraft. Aside from performing at air shows, the Blades deliver corporate and bespoke events.

The team was set up in 2006 by two former Harrier pilots, Chris Norton OBE and Andy Offer OBE who later launched 2Excel Aviation Ltd. Today, 2Excel is an innovative aviation services business working across a range of industries including defence and security, engineering, events and disaster response. 2Excel's activity is organised around two business lines: 2Excel Aviation and 2Excel Engineering.

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