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Blue Peter's Barney bags ride in Hawk

Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood flies the flag
Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood swapped the bright lights of the television studio for the back seat of a BAE Systems-built RAF Hawk to launch this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

Plane-mad Barney, whose granddad used to work for BAE Systems, and whose parents still live in Blackpool, flew over his native home town and his parent’s hotel en route from RAF Valley to RAF Fairford to open the media launch for the Show which is the biggest of its kind in the world.

Before raising a special Diamond Jubilee flag and telling the watching Press:  “Here’s one I prepared earlier!” the Blue Peter presenter achieved a childhood dream by taking to the skies in the same aircraft as that used by his heroes – the RAF’s Red Arrow Display Team.

With the sound of a special fanfare of the famous Blue Peter theme tune still ringing in his ears, Barney told BAE Systems Chief Test Pilot, Mark Bowman, who was also there to launch the Show: “This is something I have dreamed of ever since I was a little boy. It was an incredible trip. I am still a little bit bewildered by the whole thing. It is hard to describe just how excited I am about it. I had a little Airfix kit when I was eight years old. I had a T1 Hawk like this one. Today was just fantastic.”

Barney, who flies his own model aircraft, added that the trip was made all the more special for him his as his grandad used to work for BAE Systems. He said: “He was called David Harwood. He was an engineer. He was a very clever man. He could draw perfect circles freehand – no Spirograph needed. From being a kid I used to hang around and come to the airshows – so I guess it’s inbuilt in me. Sadly he’s not around anymore so he can’t see me do this, but I know he would have been thrilled for me.”

Barney was chosen by RIAT’s organiser for the media launch as the BBC’s Blue Peter ran the competition to find the winning Diamond Jubilee logo. He was flown to the launch from RAF Valley by Fl Lt Phil Bird.

As title sponsor, BAE Systems will have a significant presence at this year’s RIAT which runs from 7-8 July and will feature Warton-built and other display aircraft capturing past present and future aircraft assets. The event is a significant ‘shop window’ for the aerospace industry and immediately preceeds the Farnborough International Airshow.

Every year the Royal International Air Tattoo helps raise funds for the RAF Charitable Trust.