2005 Edition


RIAT Index

Part One: The Show

Part Two The Big Themes

Part Three: The Fairford Mix

Part Four: The Flying Displays




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Show Stopper

Both show days saw a spectacular formation to highlight the Surveillance theme at RIAT with the Red Arrows leading Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Rolls Royce and Peter Teichman



The Spitfires

Flying High at Fairford

RIAT's flying display is the longest and largest of the display season. As such it is a very demanding task to catch the attention and imagination of the crowd as well as provide such a large showcase for the UK armed forces as well as a few of the private defence contractors as well as aerospace companies to show their wares to potential customers. This years display also included a number of firsts, not only for RIAT but also european airshows - the first appearance at an air display of a fully working Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.  The display also included a dramatic attempt to break two aviation world records after RIAT officially entered the record books as the world's largest military airshow.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography by Paul Johnson and Michael Rivett.

Civvie Street - DHL
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Civvie Street - Acromach Sky Dancers - The Purple Violet
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That's Showbiz! The International Teams
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On Her Majesty's Service - Defence Contractors - The Cobham Group
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On Her Majesty's Service - Defence Contractors - Thales and Hawker Hunter Aviation
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On Her Majesty's Service - The Army Air Corps
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On Her Majesty's Service - The Royal Navy
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 On Her Majesty's Service - The Royal Air Force
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Hercules Tribute

One of the final acts during the flying progamme was a tribute to the nine aircrew and a SAS signaller killed in Iraq when a RAF Hercules was shot down on January 30th 2005. In a poignant narration, Sean Maffett named those killed while four Hercules aircraft each representing the four sqaudrons at Lyneham performed the missing man formation in salute to Sqn Ldr Patrick Marshall, Headquarters Strike Command; Flt Lt David Stead; Flt Lt Andrew Smith; Flt Lt Paul Pardoel; Master Engineer, Gary Nicholson; Chief Technician, Richard Brown; Flt Sgt Mark Gibson; Sgt Robert O'Connor; Cpl David Williams, all from RAF Lyneham; and Acting L/Cpl Steven Jones from the Royal Signals

2005 marked quite a change for the RIAT flying display. With the ongoing fight againgst ever increasing costs, the large scale "Theatre of the Air" concept seems to have taken a backseat. For the next few years at least, we won't see large scale Warbird set pieces unless sponsored by another source such as the MoD Events Team. With that in mind, RIAT had to remodel their display to provide something very different from the other shows. At first glance of the flying display programme the biggest change of all seemed to be a distinct lack of any themes at all during the eight hour display. Also, it was pretty much the same flying programme over the two days and included several items not normally associated with RIAT. The good weather that blessed the days before the show weekend thankfully continued into the weekend allowed the displays all to go ahead as planned.

Stormy Fairford for Typhoon

It was a difficult Friday for Flt Lt Matt Elliot and his Typhoon display. Having arrived at Fairford, each fast jet display has to validate his display in front of the Flying Control Committee whose job is to make sure the maximum possible safety levels are maintaining during the flying display. Also watching were a number of invited guest from the MoD, BAE Systems and Eurofighter GmbH including the new defence secretary, the Rt Hon John Reid MP. During the Typhoon validatation on approach to a slow pass via a velocity vector roll, Typhoon lost height rapidly only powering away after dropping to what is estimated to be between 50ft - 20ft. After recovery and a safe landing Matt met with the FCC to talk through what happened and amend the display to remove the risk. The two displays over the weekend passed without incident and were just as good making Typhoon one of the star acts at RIAT 2005.

Opening the display on both days was the first RAF participation in each days flying, and it was a display debut too. The 99 sqn C-17A Globemaster III hopped over from nearby RAF Brize Norton for an impressive, if a little short, demonstration of it's short field capabilities. On Saturday's show, the C-17A also brought in a Pipe band to open proceedings. More RAF transport assets were displayed courtesy of No 24 sqn from another local base, RAF Lyneham, displaying the Hercules C5 in the familiar tactical demonstration. All of the RAF main display aircraft were on show except the RAF Tutor. Of course, it was the Typhoon T1 which once again grabbed all the limelight in it's first year of full displays. It wasn't a totally happy time with Eurofighter as the pilot experienced some problems during rehearsals for the weekend. In the end all the problems were ironed out and Typhoon was easily one of the sat fast jets during the flying displays. The aircraft soon to be replaced Typhoon was also out in force. No 41sqn's Jaguar GR3A display team pulled out all the stops for this years display bringing two special acheme Jaguars from RAF Coltishall. The familiar display ship was joined by the new Jaguar painted in a scheme to celebrate 65th Anniversary of Cotishall was is due to close early next year. The 60th Anniversary of the end of world war two was a very low event at this years RIAT, with only the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Avro Lancaster B1 to mark the occasion. Also causing a stir was the Chinook HC2 display which in the end deservedly won the Steedman Display Sword for the best UK based display participant. It wasn't just the RAF on show. The Army Air Corps popular combined display of the Army Air Corps Historic Flight and Blue Eagles made it's first appearance at RIAT early on in the flying display while the Royal Navy provided it's own Black Cats team along with rare formations of four Sea Harrier FA2s and Jetstream T2s.

Record Breakers

The Royal International Air Tattoo has recently entered the record books officially as the world's largest military airshow. The record was set at the 2003 Air Tattoo where the show celebrated 100 Years of Flight with the extraordinary ground display of aircraft covering the first 100 Years of Flight on top of all the normal tattoo aircraft. To mark this, a number of record breaking activities were held throughout the weekend but the most spectacular was the attempts by Will Curtis of the Honda Dream Team to break the limbo and ribbon cutting records during RIAT's flying display. Will broke the limbo record twice; under 11 ribbons on Saturday and 12 on Sunday. However, he wasn't so lucky with the inverted ribbon cut in which he failed to beat the record, mainly due to somewhat bumpy conditions. As ever team commentator Pete MacNamara gave a enthusiastic commentary for both the display and record attempts in the company of a representative of Guinness World Records.

Another characteristic of RIAT flying programmes is that they often have participation from UK Defence Contractors who supply the armed forces with services such as training or maintenance. Perhaps one of the best received of these displays was the "Cobham" Formation using two of FR Aviation's Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft in formation with four Royal Navy FRADU BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft which are operated by Serco from day to day using Serco pilots. The display simulated an attack on a Royal Navy ship using the aircraft to simulate a bomber and it's four Exocet missiles. Another eye catching display was that of a solo Hawker Hunter F58a from Hawker Hunter Aviation and Thales. HHA provide a number of services to customers including Target Towing and Threat simulation using a fleet of ex Swiss Air Force Hunter F58s and ex RAF Hunter T7s.

Civilians actually had a star billing at RIAT 2005 with several acts in the flying display. You simply couldn't miss the DHL Boeing 757 freighter which is doing the rounds at all the major airshows this year. Once again it's gave it's spectacular, if a little short routine proving you don't have to be in a fast jet to have a major impact on an airshow audience. It can't be doing any harm to DHL's sales figures either. Much smaller than the 757 was Ali Öztürk's Pitts S2S Purple Violet from the Acromach Sky Dancers, a Turkish based aerobatic concern. A Pitts is a very small aircraft to fill a large display arena such as Fairford but Ali put on a very nice display using his smoke system to great effect to highlight the multiple flicks and stalls in his display.

Watching Us Watching You

RIAT finally saw one it's dreams to host the first ever demonstration at a European Air Display of a working UAV. The UAV in question was the Boeing ScanEagle. ScanEagle is a long endurance (15hrs), autonomous, unmanned (uninhabited according to Sean Maffett) which can be used on it's own or in groups to loiter over trouble spots providing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, battle damage assessment and communications relay. It is currently deployed by the US Marines in Iraq and is being evaluated by the Royal Navy. Despite being painted bright orange the little UAV was hard to spot while it sent it's live camera feed to large screens in the public areas, much to the frustration to many of the public but may be not to Boeing. After all, it's designed not to be seen!

However, it's the international participants and the big display teams that are the biggest draw to RIAT. Making the second biggest contribution to RIAT after the UK armed services were the United States Air Force Air Combat Command. Headlining their participation for 2005 was the East Coast F-16C Fighting Falcon Demonstration Team utilising an F-16CJ from the Spandahlem based 52nd Fighter Wing. The display was very different to those we are used to in Europe concentrating on the power and noise of the F-16 over it's outright agility. USAF AAC also sent a B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortess for "flyovers" although they were based at Fairford for the show so we saw take offs and landings. The USAF display rules seem to get more and more frustrating....and higher!!!! While it's always great to see them, and RIAT is likely to be the only show where we will see USAF heavy bombers, it does leave you to question the entertainment value of a bomber at 1000ft straight and level.

Of course, the Europeans were not left out. The only international fast jet not of American origin on display was the French Air Force's Mirage 2000C flown by Cpt Yannick Vallet and Cpt Fabrice Camliti winning the Lockheed Martin Cennestra Award for best overseas flying demonstration. Also from France was the familiar French Army SOCATA TBM700 VIP transport which has been a regular visitor to the tattoo over the last four tattoos. An regular favourite at the Tattoo is the Dutch Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon. This year, they're using a new F-16 with another amazing colour scheme which really makes their display stand out along with the usual smokewinders. However, it was the Dutch AH-64D Apache that really stole the show for many with it's looping and flare popping antics winning the Sir Douglas Bader and As the Crow Flies Trophies for Best Overall Flying Demonstration and FRIAT's Best Overall Flying Display. The Apache was not alone as the Italian Army also appeared in the flying display with their main attack helicopter, the Agusta A129A Mangusta whose display was perhaps a little more sedate than that of the Apache.  Also making a welcome return were the Finnish Air Force, this time with their rarely seen F-18C Hornet display flown by Cpt Ollie Siivola from Kuopio-Rissla. This is not an F/A-18 as in Finnish service, it is utilised as a pure air defender. Ollie's powerful demonstration was rewarded with the Paul Bowen Solo Jet Trophy.

The biggest draw for the public however are the big display teams. As always, the Royal Jordanian Falcons appeared as part of their annual European Tour. RIAT is the most important date on their calendar and they are only too pleased to be back each year spreading the message of peace and friendship from the country of Jordan through the medium of aviation. Patrulla Aguila from Spain and Il Frecce Tricolori are also Tattoo regulars that made welcome returns to Fairford. The "Frecce" are celebrating their 45th Anniversary this year are were given pride of place in the display as each day's "finale grande." Just to make the weekend sweeter for them they also won the King Hussein Memorial Sword for best overall display.

This was perhaps the most varied flying display seen at the Royal International Air Tattoo in many years with serious participation from Sports flying, warbirds, modern jets and helicopters with the cream of international display teams. It was also one of the tightest displays seen this year with very few gaps. Very often the next display was waiting to go just as the last aircraft landed which is something of a fine art to get right. An excellent day's entertainment.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005