IMAGINE doing your job to the best of your ability and then sitting down with colleagues at the end of the day to rip your performance, and theirs, apart.

Some of us might be at this particular exercise for several hours.

The next time you marvel at the precision and perfection of a Red Arrows display, bear in mind that the pilots of the world’s most famous aerobatic team are unlikely to be thinking the same as you.

A few minutes after touching down, they’ll be watching a video re-run of the show they have just done and pulling it all to pieces.

Today, slumped deep in their red leader armchairs in the crewroom at RAF Scampton, the nine pilots are doing just that.

It’s a Friday morning in early June, only a couple of weeks into the 2009 season and they have just completed a 20-minute practice display over their Lincolnshire base – famously the home of 617 Squadron, the Dambusters.

The post-sortie debrief is chaired by Red One, Wing Commander Jas Hawker, 38, the man who leads the Red Arrows on the ground and in the air. He’s also known as “The Boss”.

As the video plays on a big screen, the pilots call out their own errors in each manouevre, the words delivered in rapid fire, machine gun style.

“Long and going longer. High, Tight. Deep. Shallow. Wide. Short Nine. Too tight a turn. Behind the bank, Two. Lazy turn. Ahead of the bank. Late out, Five. Late Smoke, Nine. Too Steep. Early Five. Late Seven.” And so on.

Someone declares that the Chevron was “rubbish” and so was the Heart.

There were issues with the angles on the Vixen Break and a problem with air traffic control “getting stroppy” over altimeter settings, which is something Red One definitely doesn’t want.

The criticisms – and the Red Arrows are enormously self critical – are essentially about timing and positioning.

The blame culture you’d find in almost any other working environment is totally absent and there are no egos on parade.

As Zane Sennett, Red Two and new to the team, explains: “The debrief does sound quite brutal sometimes and people think we are really harsh on ourselves.

“In fact sometimes it may only be a matter of six inches to a foot that we’re out. But we will still debrief that. It matters.

“Everyone relies on everyone else and where I am, everyone relies on me being in the right place. It’s almost like me letting you know that I know that I am out of position. Someone might be wide or look wide but in fact it’s been caused by somebody else.”

“Also, over two or three debriefs, that’s when you start to pick up that there might a little consistent error. It may feel alright in the air but on the tape you can see if you need to fundamentally change what you are doing.”

Sennett, 33, is a flight lieutenant who flew the Harrier GR9 before joining the team. He arrived last October.

“We all have experience in close formation flying, but on the front line you don’t have to be absolutely perfect. With a public display, it’s different.”

Sennett laughs at the idea that there’s such a thing as a perfect display. “If we ever did that I think we’d pack up and go home.”

Red One wraps up the 45-minute briefing.

“Anything else?” he enquires of each team member in turn, calling them by number rather than name. No-one has anything to add.

“Good,” he says. “That was quite a nice show. We are getting back up to where we need to be.”

In a couple of hours, the team will fly to Edinburgh for a display and then on to France, returning to base on Sunday. Monday is a day off and then it’s back on the road, to Blackpool on Tuesday.

It will be like this until the end of the display season in October. One of the highlights is the Bournemouth Air Festival from August 20-23.

The team was established in 1965, first using the Gnat and since 1980, the Hawk T1.

To join this small and elite band of brothers, an applicant has to have at least 1,500 RAF flying hours, have completed one operational tour and be an above average pilot.

Three new pilots join each year and the ‘tour of duty’ lasts three years.

The display season runs from May to October and then training starts almost immediately for the following year as the team of old hands and new recruits assembles at Scampton, flying three times a day, five days a week.

It’s not until February that all nine pilots fly together for the first time and that is a real milestone. Then the team spends five to six weeks at Akrotiri in Cyprus for final preparations in good weather and over different territory.

At the end of May the Commander in Chief, Air Fleet, pitches up to see if the Red Arrows are safe to fly and be given their Public Display Licence. It’s never been refused. Only then can the pilots pull on the famous red suits. And have a party.

Of course, the Red Arrows is more than just nine pilots. A team of 100 keeps the show in the air, from engineers to support staff, administration and flight planners.

Some of the new pilots and support staff have recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is Red One’s third and final season as Officer Commanding, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

On realising that the Daily Echo is sitting in on his briefing, Red One looks up and says: “I like Bournemouth. In fact I like it so much, I’ve got a flat there. See you in August.”

Indeed you will.