RIAT 2007 Index

Part One : The Show

Part Two: Static and Support Stars

Part Three: USAF 60th Anniversary

Part Four: The Thunderbirds

Part Five: The Flying Display

 

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The Royal International Air Tattoo 2007 flying display was the longest yet staged at the event and certainly contained some unique and memorable moments Dominating the programme were the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force Role Demonstration. However, there was also the usual fast jet action and some rather surprising civilian and future military participants. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

Home Team
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Future Hunter
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Golden Rotaries
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Intense Training
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Falcons with Flair
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Little America
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The Big Teams
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Pointy Things
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Civilian Colour
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Explosive Finale

The Royal Air Force's "Role Demonstration" had it's last outing of the season at RIAT. It was actually a new team brought together for RIAT and they performed a brilliant routine on both days with some new  aspects  brought in for the final performance which greatly enhanced the show including some dramatic arrivals by the Chinook and Hercules  and some even more spectacular pyrotechnics.

 

With flying starting at 0945 in the morning and finishing well after 1800 this was defiantly the longest air display the tattoo or any UK event has staged in recent years with nearly nine hours of flying. The flying displays are always over subscribed for RIAT and fitting it all in without upsetting air forces, pilots and the crowds is a problem. This year, it simply had to be expanded. However, the display did feel a little too long and while it certainly wasn't boring, it did feel it was dragging on a bit too long. I would certainly prefer a high quality but shorter display at future events that would have more impact on the spectators.

The dominant feature of flying displays in 2007 has been the weather and needless to say the forecasts had a massive impact on RIAT but in reality, the weather did little to hinder the flow of both days displays with a full programme performed on both days.

Perhaps one of the biggest talking points of the weekend was the RAF's participation at the event. While like many shows, it was much reduced it was certainly high impact. First RAF display each day was the Chinook HC2 which is always an impressive performer and potential award winners. Sadly no prizes for the Chinook with that honour going to the Typhoon F2 in the hands of Flt Lt Jim Walls scooping the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for best individual flying demonstration and the As the Crow Flies award from RIAT. The only other solo from the RAF was the Hawk T1 as part of a training theme in the display. 2007 sees the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the unit flew their Lancaster B1 and the four original Spitfire PR XIX and Hurricane IIc fighters as part of the show. After the four fighters had finished their display they joined up with the Red Arrows for this year's unique RIAT formation and it was certainly a very memorable part of the show. Towards the end of each days flying, the RAF displayed it's Role Demonstration. This has become a huge hit at airshows ever since it was first revealed at the Biggin Hill Air Fair at the beginning of June and was once again warmly received at RIAT. All the pilots, air crews, ground crews, pyrotechnic teams and the RAF events team have done a superb job in 2007 and we hope the demo will return next year - hopefully bigger and better!

50th Birthday Formation

This year's stand out formation was the RAF's Red Arrows in formation with the four original fighters of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. To see jets flying so slowly with such historic aircraft is always an impressive sight.

The Royal Navy and the Army Air Corps also contributed to the show with the Blue Eagles and Black Cats helicopter display teams. The naval showing also included a pair of Jetstream T2 aircraft from RNAS Culdrose and the mixed formation of FR Aviation Falcon 20ECM and FRADU Hawks. The latter won the King Hussein Memorial Sword for Best Overall flying display. Another private financed military display was that given by Capt Alan Wade in the Slingsby T67M-200 Firefly from the Defence Elementary Flying School based at RAF Barkston Heath in Lincolnshire.

Another welcome participant on Saturday was the Nimrod MRA4 from BAE Systems at Warton. The aircraft flew at the show as part of a test flight as it did at Waddington a fortnight earlier. It's appearances at both shows have been more than welcome.

The central theme of RIAT 2007 was the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. Unusually the centrepiece of this theme in the flying display was staged fairly early in the day just before lunch. This section of the display opened with a look at a number of aircraft that were in service 60 years ago. The first of these aircraft perhaps surprised a few being the PBY-5A Catalina of Plane Sailing. The aircraft is currently wearing the markings of a OA-10 Catalina that flew with the USAAF 8th Air Force based in East Anglia. The Fighter Collection's new TF-51D Mustang Miss Velma was a welcome participant in the hands of US airshow ace, Ed Shipley. His take off during Friday's rehearsals certainly won't be forgotten any time soon! The dawn of the Jets in USAF service was represented by the stunning F-86A Sabre of Golden Apple Operations. As far as the modern USAF was concerned, there were appearances by the B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortress which have been regular features of RIAT's flying displays over the last few years. Less regularly seen has been the F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter which was probably making it's last ever appearance in the UK before retirement. Making it's RIAT debut was the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team utilising RAF Lakenheath based machines. The moist air conditions certainly helped to highlight this dramatic display. After the display the F-15E joined with the TF-51D for a couple of Heritage Flight flypasts. However, the headline act of the show was an appearance by the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, The Thunderbirds. We have a separate article about the team, but Fairford was the last stop of their European tour and their appearance at a UK is always appreciated.

As ever, RIAT likes to throw in an act or too you simply wouldn't expect at the show. This year it was the turn of Oasis Hong Kong Airlines with their Boeing 747-400 display. Aswell as the three flypasts we've become accustomed to during 2007 the 747 also landed at Fairford for a few hours before taking off to return to it's base at Gatwick. Also adding some colour to the day were the four Stearmans of Team Guinot who won the Steedman Sword for best UK based display.

However, the main attraction of any RIAT is the international participation in the flying display which is simply not repeated at any other show in the UK at the moment. A highlight of the year for military enthusiasts have been the deployment of the Indian Air Force to Waddington for joint exercises with the RAF. RIAT managed to secure a short capability demonstration by one of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker-C multi role fighters they had brought. As the pilot was not an approved display pilot it did mean the display was very distant and the incredible tight turning performance of the aircraft with thrust vectoring meant it never really left the display centre before climbing off into low cloud back to Waddington which for many at the ends of the runway was very disappointing.

Apart from the Indian Flanker, every else has been seen before at UK shows. There were a couple of very rare helicopter displays. The first was the Czech Air Force Mi-24V Hind attack and battlefield support helicopter which is always a dramatic performer. The Belgian Sea King Mk48 may well be a familiar shape but a search and rescue display was most welcome from this venerable helicopter in it's bright camouflage.

It was infact the first time in a number of years that the Belgians had visited the tattoo and they also brought their dramatic F-16AM Fighting Falcon display who made good use of flares during his routine. There was also the Netherlands Air Force F-16AM who like his Belgian counterpart liberally fired off flares during his routine.

In fact, the displays turned into something of a shootout between similar types. Both the Finnish and Swiss Air Forces showed off their F-18C and F/A-18C Hornets respectively and interestingly both picked up awards for their displays. The Finnish team picking up the Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy for Best Overseas Flying Demonstration while the Swiss won the Paul Bowen Solo Jet Trophy.

Also shooting it out with the RAF Typhoon once again was the Spanish Air Force Typhoon from Ala 11. It is a different style of display using plenty of reheat but perhaps still lacks the polish of the RAF display.

One of the underlying themes of the show was that of training as part of "Agile, Adaptable, Capable" and this showed in some of the flying displays. The Royal Netherlands Air Force displayed it's PC-7 Turbotrainer in it's still relatively unfamiliar over black scheme just the RAF's Tucano fleet. As ever it was an elegant display of aerobatics with some graceful smoke trails. Looking far more potent was the Slovenian Air Force PC-9M Swift training and light strike aircraft which was a very late addition to the flying display. The French Air Force sent it's Alpha Jet E solo in place of the regular Mirage 2000. The 2000 is not being displayed outside of France for 2007 except for a special display in Barcelona at the end of the season so it's been left the little Alpha Jet to populate the European circuit.

As ever, RIAT boasted more display teams than any other show in the UK. That perhaps wasn't so difficult in 2007 with only Yeovilton being able to host the Patrouille Suisse at it's show a week earlier. Still, the Royal Jordanian Falcons made their traditional RIAT appearance with their brand new Extra 300L aircraft. Particularly welcome however were Il Frecce Tricolori making a very welcome return to RIAT. They and the Red Arrows clearly enjoy their meetings giving each other flights during their rehearsals on Friday. Closing the show on Sunday evening in perhaps the worst of the weekend were Patrulla Aguila. The team had something of an accident with the red smoke oil during rehearsals which  was sprayed all over the team by one of the lead aircraft. The dye proved to be really rather sticky and the team engineers still hadn't removed it by the time the team had set off for home on Monday morning.

As ever, you cannot fault the quality of the RIAT flying display with acts from all over Europe and beyond that we just don't see elsewhere. However, we would like to see a move away from repeat displays (ie. two F-16s and two F-18s in the same display) and from shipping in VIPs in a Gulfstream during the display. Both take away some of the impact a RIAT flying display has. We feel a shorter tighter display would an excellent step towards keeping RIAT at the top of the pile.

2007 Flying Display Award Winners

 King Hussein Memorial Sword

Awarded for Best Overall Flying Demonstration in memory of His Majesty King Hussein, Patron of the International Air Tattoo (1983-1999)

Awarded to Spike Jepson, John Danning, Rick Offord, Steve Wells flying 2 Falcon 20s of FR Aviation and Martin Stoner, Warren Ward, Neil Buckland and Harry Wilhelm flying 4 Hawks of FRADU.

 Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy

Awarded for Best Flying Demonstration by an Overseas Participant, excluding teams of more than six aircraft

Awarded to Capt Tommi Heikkala flying the F-18C of Fighter Squadron 11, Finnish Air Force.

Steedman Display Sword

Awarded for Best Flying Demonstration by a UK Participant (excluding teams of six or more aircraft) in memory of the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Alistair Steedman, Chairman of the International Air Tattoo (1981-1988)

Awarded to Vic Norman, the pilots and wingwalkers of Team Guinot

Sir Douglas Bader Trophy and the As the Crow Flies Trophy

The Sir Douglas Bader Trophy is awarded for the best individual flying demonstration excluding teams of six or more aircraft in tribute to the late Sir Douglas Bader

The As the Crow Flies Trophy is presented by the Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo in memory of the late Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling for best overall flying Demonstration

Awarded to Flt Lt Jim Walls flying the Typhoon F2 of 29 (R) Squadron, Royal Air Force.  

Paul Bowen Solo Jet Aerobatic Trophy

As a tribute to the late Paul A Bowen (1947-2004), co-founder of the Royal International Air Tattoo, this trophy is awarded to the best solo jet demonstration

Awarded to Capt Thomas ‘Pipo’ Peier flying the F/A-18C of Fliegerstaffel 18, Swiss Air Force.

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