It was 100 years ago on April 1 1918 that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF – the world’s first independent air service.
Beginning with a service at Westminster Abbey, the Queen has been joined by family members including Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Along with Charles, the monarch will present a new Queen’s Colour to the RAF in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace before making a brief speech.
The roaring aircraft formation is scheduled to pass over Buckingham palace at 1pm and will be made up of the most varied range of RAF aircraft in aerial formation since the coronation of the Queen in 1953.
The royals will appear on the balcony of the Queen’s London residence to view a flypast of up to 100 RAF aircraft, a parade of more than 1,000 personnel, and a feu de joie.
Harry and Meghan’s appearance comes just hours before the newlyweds make their way to Ireland for their first official royal tour as a married couple.
Air-Vice Marshal Gerry Mayhew, the air officer commanding No 1 group and the senior responsible officer for the flypast, said the day is the “centrepiece” of the RAF’s 100th year.
“It is the high point for the capital, Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family.
“And it is a great opportunity to look back and really celebrate our past, but to look forward is a really important thing for us as we look to the next 100 years.”
He described being at the forefront of the flypast as a “great honour”, and said he hopes the Queen and royal family will see “exactly what they can do” for the monarch.
Asked what message a 100-aircraft flypast may send to Britain’s adversaries and the world, he said: “It demonstrates we are a competent, professional and capable air force that has a credible, very credible, set of capabilities.”
Charles, Camilla, William, Harry and Meghan will also meet veterans, personnel, charity representatives and those from the civil service in a reception after the spectacle.
Just 15 years after the first-ever powered flight undertaken by the Wright brothers, the decision to create the RAF was made after the War Cabinet inquiry criticised the poor organisation of Britain’s air forces.
Those recognised as the founders of the RAF include Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson and Lord Hugh Trenchard – the first chief of the air staff.
The flypast is set to feature aircraft including Puma and Chinook helicopters, a Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricanes, the A400M Atlas, Tornados, Typhoons and the F-35 stealth fighter jets.
Drawing the spectacle to a close will be the Red Arrows, who in traditional aerobatic style will stream red, white and blue smoke down the length of The Mall.
The officer commanding the Red Arrows, Wing Commander Andrew Keith, who took the helm in August, said it is an incredible year to be leading them.
He said: ”We will put the red, white and blue on at the end of the flypast, which I think is a fitting way to end it, which is great.”
During the flypast, he said he will be flying in the formation in the back seat of the team leader’s jet, “getting a few photos”.
When asked if they will be doing anything different on the day, he added: “It is going to be business as usual for us – and hopefully clocking over that 100th aircraft.”