|Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2015: July
17 – 19, RAF Fairford
|Location: Royal Air Force (RAF) Air Base Fairford
|Admission: Expensive, varies with type
|Rating out of 10: 10
Avro Vulcan for the last time at RIAT
To write about the Royal International Air Tattoo, actually would be the famous carrying coals to Newcastle. Every year recessions on the world's largest aviation event can be found in relevant journals. Interestingly, but is always written only about the event itself, and the respective participants. That is why this report should be supplemented by a few facts and figures about the organization and its historical outline.
No other event had so many highlights, but also (a very few) experienced low points, such as the Air Tattoo. Since its founding in 1971, the Air Tattoo was held a total of 31 times. Twice had the show to be canceled (once in 1975 after the oil crisis, and again in 2008 due to heavy rainfall prior to the event). The Tattoo was founded by Timothy Prince and Paul Bowen (both former Air Traffic Controller) together with Air Marshal Denis Crowley-Milling, CBE, DSO, DFC. Air Marshall Crowley-Milling was a veteran of the Battle of Britain and flew as a wingman with the legendary Sir Douglas Bader. The very first Air Tattoo was held at the airfield North Weald in the north of London on May 31, 1971.
After only three events in North Weald the Air Tattoo had to move to RAF Greenham Common, which served as the venue until 1985. After this period it was transferred to this airbase, which is brought up today in conjunction with the RIAT - the RAF Fairford. With its 2-mile-long runway and the enormous space this base is predestined for an event of this magnitude. The RAF Fairford is next to RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, the last remaining UK-based airbase still used by the USAF. With the first Air Tattoo some 100 aircraft participated (among others a Sikorsky S-65Oe the Austrian army), this went to the late 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium in an almost astronomical heights (which the number of participating nations and aircraft are concerned.) With no less than 535! participating aircraft and helicopters the RIAT 2003 was the largest public aviation event that has ever been held worldwide. In order for the RIAT has even received an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Such figures are now completely illusory, the organizer of the Air Tattoo, RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises (RAFCTE) make it but still, to organize a huge number of aircraft (2015 there were 232 aircraft from a total of 75 countrieson site!). In case of the flying program, no difference can be seen in comparison with the major events of the past years.
The list of highlights, which accumulated over the past 44 years at the various Air Tattoos is absolutely gigantic. It is easier to list what type of aircraft was not a guest at RIAT, than all the naming rarities and exotics that have participated. Even this year the RAFCTE managed to draw a highlight on land, which was not to be seen anywhere else, at least not outside of Japan. We're talking about two Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft. This aircraft is operated exclusively by the Japanese Navy, and is currently the most modern system of its kind (its American counterpart, the Boeing P-8 POSEIDON is based on the tried and true model 737-800). Developed by the Kawasaki Heavy Industries the, originally called P-X type had its maiden flight on 28 September 2007. To date, 33 aircraft were produced and handed over to the Japanese armed forces. One reason for the participation of the P-1 at this year's Air Tattoo are the negotiations with the MoD (Ministry of Defense - MoD) for the procurement of this aircraft as a substitute for the abandoned BAe Nimrod MRA4. The Royal Air Force has shown a keen interest in the P-1, but there are concerns about the used engines (Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries IHI XF7-10). Should the RAF opt for the P-1, the British model is used in all likelihood replacement engines of the Rolls Royce company.
What distinguishes the RIAT from other events? On the one hand, of course, the high level of professionalism with which the experienced team organizes, performs and markets the event. This results in a continuity which rarely can be found at other events. A significant factor is that the organizer is of a profit-making organization with strong links to the MoD. As how this entanglement looks exactly should not be the subject of this article. It is important that a portion of the revenues proceeds into a foundation for RAF members (RAF Charitable Trust). This in turn financed various foundations, such as the Air Cadet Organisation or the Flying Scholarships for Disabled People.
An important cornerstone of success is tremendously hard work, which puts the team in the acquisition of the participating air forces and aircraft. Years of networking here pays off especially. The good reputation in compounds with the excellent relationship which has developed with many air forces over the years the organizer, constitutes a large part of the success. This will benefit especially the audience. Nowhere else the aviation enthusiast same as the regular visitors gets more for their money than at the Air Tattoo.
Of course in such a long history there is not only always bright sun. The first setback experienced the event in 1975 as a short-term after the resignation of the then Airshow Directors and the previous oil crisis the whole event was canceled. Much worse it hit the RIAT and of course the many who had traveled from distant countries participants and spectators in 2008. At that time, the event was canceled just the day before the actual show should have started due to flooding of the parks and campsites - an enormous shock for everyone involved. On the plus side is the safety record of Air Tattoo. With the exception of two relatively unscathed extending accidents no people were harmed at all events. In a spectacular crash of two Russian MiG-29, both pilots were able to get out unharmed with the ejection seat at RIAT 1995. In 2002 came to a tricky situation when an Alenia G-222 of the Italian Air Force touched down so hard by performing a so-called Sarajevo-landing that the front wheel collapsed and the aircraft thundered along the runway with sparks, until it came to a halt. Another critical situation, in which a RAF Eurofighter TYPHOON recovered from a dive just 3 m above ground level, rounded off the series of significant "incidents" in with the Air Tattoos.
Probably for the last time (at least for visitors to the RIAT in Fairford) the 2015 season saw a flight demonstration of the Avro Vulcan B.Mk2. This icon of the Cold War has been restored airworthy after years of restoration by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust (VTTST). The entire project was financed privately (through donations, lottery funds and private sponsoring). Actually, hardly anyone had really expected that this prestigious project would ever get off the ground, but somehow the VTTST managed to collect enough Pound Sterling so that the AVRO 698 VULCAN was able to complete her second maiden flight with the identifier XH588 on 18 October 2007. Since then, this bomber, looking like an oversized moth enriched the British Airshow scene. Much to the chagrin of the British, but also of the many aviation enthusiasts the VTTST has announced that 2015 will be the last season in which the XH588 will be demonstrated in flight. When and where the last flight will take place, is not entirely clear at the moment.
In addition to the highlights mentioned above, there was still plenty to see. For partially optimal weather conditions (the British would even call it perfect) the completely sold-out event was meeting all demands. The so-called Synchro Pair Formation, consisting of a Supermarine SPITFIRE Mk IIa and a Eurofighter TYPHOON FGR4, wowed the nearly 150,000 spectators just as the demonstrations of the Airbus A400M ATLAS or a Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52 of the Hellenic Air Force - just to name a few.
The next show will take place between 08. and 10th July, 2016., the preparations for this run already in full swing, so that the Air Tattoo 2016 will be in the same league as this years event was! CU there!
| Fairford 2015 Display on Saturday and Sunday
The Red Arrows 9 x Hawk T1/T1As, RAF, Scampton
Patrouille de France 8 x Alpha Jet Es, French Air Force, BA701 Salon de Provence
PC-7 Team 9 x PilatusNCPC-7, Swiss Air Force, Dübendorf
Patrulla Aguila 7 x CASA C-101EB, Spanish Air Force, San Javier
Royal Jordanian Falcons 4 x Extra EA300Ls, Royal Jordanian Air Force, King Hussein AP Aqaba
F-16A MLU, Belgian Air Force, 31 Sqn Kleine Brogel
Typhoon FGR4, RAF, 29 Sqn Coningsby
Airbus A400M, EADS France, Toulouse
Apache AH1S 2 x, Royal Army Air Corps, 3 Regiment Wattisham
Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment 35th Anniversary:
RAF, 31 Sqn Marham
German Air Force, TaktLwG 33 Büchel
Italian Air Force, 6 Stormo Ghedi
Supermarine Spifire PRXIX and Messerschitt Bf 109G-4
Ramex Delta 2 x, Mirage 2000N, French Air Force, EC 2/4 Lafayette BA 125 Istres
CV-228B Osprey, US Air Force, 7th Operations Sqn Mildenhall UK
BO 105P1, German Army, Celle
AS332M1 Super Puma, Swiss Air Force, Lufttransportstaffel 6 Alpnach
Pilatus PC-9M, Slovenian Air Force, Cerklje ob Kriki
Chinook HC4, RAF, 27 Sqn Odiham
Kawasaki P-1, Japan Maritim Self-Defense Force, VX-51 Atsugi
L-159A, Czech Air Force, 212.tl Caslav
Avro Vulcan B2, Vulcan to the Sky Trust, Doncaster Sheffield Airport
Mi-24V, Czech Air Force, 221 vrlt Namest nad Oslavou
Demo Team Zeus F-16C, Hellenic Air Force, 340/343 Mira Souda
MiG-29, Polish Air Force, 1.ELT Minsk Mazowiecki
Syncro Pair 75 Supermarine Spitfire and Typhoon FGR4
Hawk T2 Role Demo 2 x Hawk T2s, RAF, IV Sqn Valley
AH-64D Apache, Royal Netherlands Air Force, 301 Sqn Gilze-Rijen
F-18C, Finnish Air Force, HävLLv 11 Rovaniemi
Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary Tribute:
Bristol Blenheim IF
Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX
Hawker Hurrican I
Hawker Hurrican IIb
Hawker Hurrican IIcs 2 x
Hawker Hurrican X
Hispano HA-1112-M11 Buchon
Messerschmitt Bf 109-G-4
Supermarine Seafire XVII
2 x Supermarine Spitfire Ias
Supermarine Spitfire IIa
Supermarine Spitfire LFVb
Supermarine Spitfire IXT
2 x Supermarine Spitfire LFIX
2 x Supermarine Spitfire LFIXe
Supermarine Spitfire LFXVIe
Supermarine Spitfire FRXVIIIe
|Report by Robert Kysela with photography as noted for