RIAT 2006 Index

Part One : The Show

Part Two: Rapid Global Effect

Part Three: Fairford Fusion

Part Four: The Flying Display




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The Royal International Air Tattoo 2006 is the biggest "airshow" of the year and this year basked under blue skies for much of the event. It was a difficult time to hold a military airshow with so much uncertainty in the Middle East yet RIAT still managed to create an event to entertain and inspire everyone. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All Photography copyright of the Author.

The heatwave was all too much for some, including the usually Ice Cold French Mirage pilots who like everyone sought any kind of shelter from the heat!

2006 certainly built on the success of the 2005 event with some exciting new attractions. Early indications are that 167,000 spectators came to RAF Fairford in the soaring temperatures that have characterised July 2006. The high temperatures as well as attracting people always cause a fair few problems for organisers with people at high risk of heat exhaustion and it was good see plenty of water tanks of drinking water around the airfield and free sunblock being handed out. Over the weekend 232 people required assistances from the medical centre and 45 of those were transferred to hospital.

RIAT's biggest department for the show weekend is the emergency services which, like many RIAT staff, are volunteers from around the country. Though no there were no significant airside emergencies during the weekend, there were a number of people requiring medical attention, mainly due to heat related problems.

Always an area of concern are the arrangements for getting in and out. Getting in proved relatively easy once again and only few problems incountered the other way. Saturday saw a few problems early on as people began drifting away earlier because of the heat while an accident on the Blue route exit caused a few minor problems on Saturday. Once parked. everyone has to go through security and this often means queues start early at the gates. Alledgely, one man set up the queue at the Blue Gate at 2.45am!!!! There's dedication for you! Queue's at the gates are always going to a problem. We used Blue throughout the time at RIAT and after a little confusion on Saturday enforcing a new systems, yet another (more successful) system was introduced on Sunday. But please RIAT, opening the gates earlier really would help!

Making plenty of noise and smoke for itself just before the main flying display was the Vampire Jet Car in full reheat.

RIAT's static display may have been smaller than previous years, but other organisers could learn a whole lot from Fairfords' more "imaginative" layout!

New to RIAT for 2006 was the TRI@RIAT exhibtion at the centre of the showground. The main emphasis of the exhibition was to attract the next generation of engineers. The main arena saw a number of demonstrations by famous stunt driver Russ Swift and his team. There were also motorsport displays and "Robot Wars." One item that needed to whole runway at Fairford was the Vampire Jet Car that had been at Fairford the previous week attempting some land speed records.

A great deal of what makes RIAT work is all the result of teamwork whether it be Showground Operations, the task of running the Gulfstream Flight Centre or the VIP hospitality. Team work even extends into the air through ground crews and in the case of the Netherlands Air Force PC-7 Display, a team coach. Captain Nick "Fumes" de With was I constant radio contact with Captain Annemiek "Meip" Macco thoughout the display. Annemeik herself is an instructor with EMVO having served 4 years on F-16 fighters. Next years display pilot perhaps?

Of course, there's also a massive static display at any RIAT. It was noticably smaller this year, a reflection perhaps on the changing times we are in. Less money and aircraft types certainly don't help, but also just how busy those aircraft are. It was noticable that some aircraft that arrived never even made it into the static park before bing retasked, and that some aircraft mysteriously dissappeared overnight! As in previous editions of RIAT, the static park is much more imaganitive that other shows in terms of layout. Aircraft aren't just parked next to each other in a line but in small groups and themes. An example of this were the Gripens from Sweden and the Czech Republic and the F-16s from the Netherlands. One thing very noticable this year was a very thin contigent from our own UK forces. It seems the days of multiple examples of types from different squadrons are gone with one a single example of each type present on show. As you may have seen in the press elsewhere, the static Harrier GR9 was lost in an accident at Kidlington on the way to RIAT, thankfully without any fatalities

RIAT would be nothing without Sponsors and nowadays the Sponsors use RIAT as another outlet to display their wares to potential customers Notable companies were BAE Systems with the Hawk 128, Finmeccanica with the M311 and M346, Pilatus with the PC-21 and finally Boeing with the F/A-18F and MV-22B Osprey.

The main event of the weekend however is the eight hour flying display that we will detail in separate section. However, it is an integral part of the show. Many of the flying participants were really very exciting the watch incresing the spectacle though we were a little dissappointed with the overall presentation of the flying display which on Sunday in particular seemed to lose all momentum as the afternoon wore on. There did seem to be lot of non-air display movements which created large gaps in the display. Certainly compared to other "big" shows like Biggin Hill and Flying Legends, it did lack flow. Many questions have also been asked of how much RIAT "borrowed" fro Farnborough Airshow which was held the next week with four acts almost certainly at RIAT due to the proximity of the trade show. However, it was still the biggest flying display of the year and had some great support from the visiting forces with a number of joint flypasts with aerobatic teams to enjoy.

Even after the flying display finishes that isn't end of the Air Tattoo experience. The evening sees a full scale concert, this year lead by Singer Clare Teal and the BBC Big Band in the relative cool of the evening. With union jacks waving it's a fine way to round off a trip to RIAT.

From the reaction of people at the show and after the event over the various message board, RIAT has produced another highly enjoyable event for all, certainly a very memorable one.  With great weather and superb work by the many thousand volunteers RIAT has maintained itself as the premier aviation event in the UK for the public. RIAT Director Tim Prince said after the show "Everyone I have spoken to has said what a wonderful time they have had and how much they have enjoyed the day. Not only do we try and pull out all the stops during our flying display but we have tried to provide a wide range of entertainment on the ground for people to enjoy. The team has risen to the challenge of improving on last year’s Air Tattoo and this has been reflected in the increased attendance for this year." Next Year RIAT returns over the weekend of the 14th-15th July 2007 and will be focussing on the 60th Anniversary of the USAF with which RIAT enjoys a special relationship unsurpassed by other european shows. It should be very special.

 copyright Flightline UK