Founded in 2005 by two former RAF pilots, Chris Norton and Andy Offer, The Blades debuted their first display in 2006 with four aircraft and four pilots. It was on 2nd May 2006 that The Blades received their Display Authority and, on 15th May 2006, 2Excel became a fully-fledged airline with the award of its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) GB 2299. The big idea was to be able to fly formation aerobatics with fare paying passengers in a world-class formation aerobatic display team; this is only legally permitted if the organisation is licenced to fly passengers which means, the team must hold an AOC.
Over the next three years, The Blades grew to a team of eight people and increased its turnover four-fold. 2Excel diversified The Blades’ product set from displays and corporate entertainment into leadership, teambuilding, rewards, incentives, product launches, charity prizes and brand building which took The Blades as far afield as Bahrain.
In June 2008, The Blades aircraft rebranded with the livery of Barclays Commercial Bank and the team’s partnership was cemented.
In April 2010, the team rebranded the aircraft for the RAF Association’s Wings Appeal, one of the three RAF charities. Since then The Blades raised the RAF Association’s brand awareness and values, championed their cause, raised over a million pounds directly and indirectly for the Wings Appeal and, thereby, for the veterans who fought our wars for us and to whom we all owe so much.
In late 2014, the team diversified away from single sponsors, by offering partnership and activity packages, with the aircraft divided into sections for associated branding. This was the start of the partnerships with the team’s current sponsors: Aerobytes (Title Partner), Belcom Cables, and Leigh Cables. The charity partners since 2015 are The RAF Benevolent Fund and Aerobility.