Simon ‘Sid’ Shirley
Sid is a former RAF fast jet pilot with around 4000 hours flying time having done multiple tours on the Tornado F3 as well as QFI tours on the Hawk (where he was also a tactics & weapons instructor) and the Grob Tutor in both the University Air Squadron and Elementary Flying Training roles as both the Deputy Chief Instructor and now as a Full Time Reservist QFI at RAF Cranwell have ‘retired’ from full times service in December 2014. In his fourth season as a display pilot, Sid has the pleasure of flying with 3 of his ‘pupils’ on the Team having taught Steve, Barry and Gerald to fly formation in previous years and is very pleased to have come full circle in this journey with them.
Sid leads the Team in his RV4 having purchased it in early 2014 purely for the task of leading the Team. A keen motorcyclist, Sid often tours Europe (mainly the Pyrenees) with other bikers including Steve – wherein Sid is definitely not the leader! He lives in North Yorkshire and when not teaching Elementary RAF and International pilots to fly in Lincolnshire or displaying with the Team, he enjoys travelling, DIY on his 300 year-old cottage, cooking and (very) amateur astronomy. He also plays the odd round of golf where his handicap seems to be an inability to hit a fairway!
Steve is the brains and the energy behind the Team having formed it late in 2013 with Barry and has been displaying for 9 years having previously been in Team Osprey in his Yak 52. Steve has been a keen PPL aviator for more than 25 years and now has over 1000 flying hours, including some on ex-military jets having once owned a Jet Provost Mk 3. He has owned a number of light aircraft including a Partenavia P64B Oscar, a Yak 52, an RV4 and his current superbly self built RV8 which he completed in only a year. He got his first taste of formation flying during a week on the formation school at North Weald in 2004 where he has since tutored. Steve is a businessman hailing from Blackwood having been born and raised there, and has many carpet and furniture outlets in the area as well as some property ventures.
A talented mechanic and all round grafter, Steve not only started the Team but along with Barry keeps them flying too. He has a keen sense of humour and is a devoted family man with 2 grown-up daughters and has recently become a grandfather. Steve’s biggest fear is having nothing to do and is utterly useless at relaxing. He has recently finished building his second RV8 and now flies as Raven 2 in G-CJSM vice G-VFDS, which Raven 5 has adopted. When he gets time he is a keen motorcycle tourer regularly leading Sid astray in Europe.
Barry has been a private pilot for in excess of 28 years gaining a total of more than 1600 hours on all sorts of aircraft ranging from Touring Aircraft to the Yak 52 and Piper Cubs and has been a display pilot for 9 years having also been in Team Osprey with his Yak 52. In fact, it is fair to say that Barry is West Wales’s answer to an African bush pilot or an American barnstormer. After many years of flying and Yak 52 ownership he finally took the plunge into the flying discipline his logbook had been missing – formation flying, where he attended the same formation school week as Steve.
Originally from Buckinghamshire Barry and his keen, dry wit now reside in Newcastle Emlyn where he is a businessman in the field of heating engineering. Another handy mechanically minded chap. In his spare time he likes fixing things, especially Gerald’s RV, and socialising with his wide network of friends. Barry is married with 2 grown-up daughters and is the behavioural template to which angry men should aspire.
Gerald, originally a professional rugby player in Wales, New Zealand and South Africa is now a successful businessman in the Swansea area. A keen PPL pilot for 20 years with more than 1000 hours he is arguably one of the most experienced military jet pilots on the civilian scene having flown (and owned) many ex-military jets including (but not limited to) L29, L39, Jet Provost, Strikemaster, Vampire, Venom and Hunter T7 and FGA9. Gerald is also an experienced piston fixed wing pilot and helicopter pilot having owned a couple of Yak 52s and a Wasp. A very experienced display pilot, he has displayed all of his ex-military jets and the Wasp, the former with Team Viper. He Also displayed with a Yak 52 team in South Africa.
With unquenchable enthusiasm and drive, Gerald is the fuel to the momentum of the Team and with his extensive networking links in the display arena is the Team’s display schedule organiser and communications into the Team. In his precious little spare time Gerald enjoys spending time with his 2 teen-age children, including supporting his son in his own rugby career and he remains an avid fan regularly watching the game. Another natural wit he is always at the centre of any social event and is the archetypal life and soul of the party.
Mark is a current training captain with Thomas Cook currently flying the Airbus A330/321 and is an ex-RAF fast jet pilot having flown the Tornado GR1 and the Jet Provost in the instructional role. Also an experienced display pilot, all of Mark’s display experience has been on ex-military jets having owned and displayed his own Hunter GA11 with Team Viper with Gerald and he also still owns 2 L29s. His RV8 is a recent purchase and a break from his comfort zone as pistons are very new to him.
Nevertheless, given his 2 years flying experience (yes, 19000 hours equates to 2 years) Mark, being from the North has a naturally laid-back approach to all he does, however, this relaxed attitude is actually a veneer for a wealth of aviation knowledge and a quick, dry wit. Mark lives outside Manchester and in his spare time enjoys high speed downhill skiing and house building; a skill he practices in order to stay grounded with ‘earthy’ people.