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 is the world's biggest and military airshow. It has often set the standards of airshow presentation and therefore it must be a hard job improving year in year out. There was a distinctive feel of being in 'Little America' to this years show with the main theme of the event being the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

Trading in...


Opening the show at the press launch on the Thursday was David Jason, a long time supporter of the Tattoo. His  transport was a bight yellow Robinson R22 decked in "Trotters Independant Traders" livery!

Royal International Air Tattoo, the tattoo, RIAT or just plain Fairford is still the most highly anticipated airshow of the season thanks largely to the sheer scale of the event and it's international stature. It not only attracts air forces and aerospace companies from  around the world, but also spectators will make long flights and trips just to be there. In recent years the show has been very lucky with the weather often falling on a weekend where bright sunny conditions last for the tweo days. 2007 couldn't have been more different. The UK has been subject to an unusally wet and cool early summer which had played havoc at several shows. Forecast during the week before hand didn't show much improvement until Thursday and Friday. Friday's forecast was strange forecasting bright sunny conditions while Sunday looked to be a vile day with persistant heavy rain. Saturday came exactly as forecast and that caused problems for RIAT's entry procedures. 110,000 people turned up on the first day which overloaded the entrance routes causing some very long delays. It also had an effect on the security checks and did cause a ticketing problem.

Threatening Skies

The weather was a worry to everybody in the buid up to the event and at some points the skies did start to look very threatening.

Tim Prince commented “In the past, the attendance figures for both days have been more or less equal so we were happy to let our ticket-holders decide when to come but I think that this weekend we shall see quite a difference in numbers over the two days. I cannot recall the last time an Air Tattoo was held where the forecast for the weekend reported such contrasting weather conditions. It is something we shall have to look at very closely for next year and consider the possibility of issuing day-specific tickets like many other events.”

Thunderbird Control

A highlight of the flying display was certainly a rare appearance in the UK by the USAF Thunderbirds display team. On the ground they also have some impressive equipment to control the display. The remote controlled truck (right) is also home their own PA system!!

Sunday infact had much better weather that had been forecast. It was overcast, but the cloud itself remained fairly high throughout the day and it really wasn't until the back end of the day that displays begun to be affected. Needless to say the exit plans coped fairly well on both days.

One of the recent developments for RIAT has been the TRI@RIAT exhibition that takes place at the centre of the showground. Designed to inspire the next generations of engineers, this area combines exhibits from the armed forces, aerospace companies and motorsports. Saturday's show saw a visit from Honda Racing's Jenson Button while lectures were given by TV's Johnny Ball and there was of course the Robot Wars arena.

Sean's last tattoo...

After 28 years as Senior commentator for IAT/ATi/RIAT, Sean Maffet hung up the Fairford microphone for the last time on the Sunday of RIAT.

Over the PA system he said "Just before we go, I have something personal I’d like to say. I’ve been rabitting on at International Air Tattoos, and various other shows organised by IAT, more recently the Royal IAT, for about 28 years.   And this has been my last Royal International Air Tattoo. I’ve had some fantastic fun, and it’s been a huge privilege, but it’s time to move on. I’m not stopping any of my work at other shows and events, but I won’t be here at Fairford this time next year.  So from me Sean Maffett at RIAT, it really is good bye. If you have been  -  thank you for listening."

Sean has really be at the very heart of what the public see and hear of RIAT and he will be greatly missed at Fairford by all of us who have been regular visitors to RIAT over the years.

Also on the ground was an impresive collection of American cars and american culture in nod to the USAF theme of the event. Anyone who visits the eastern park and view too would have had an extra slice of american culture with the traditional barbeque laid on by 420th Air Base Sqadron selling american hot dogs, hot links, burgers and soft drinks.

The Old and New

Old and new dominated the RIAT Static Parks.

In total, 320 aircraft participated at the Tattoo from 24 different countries and 37 air arms. This may well be a shadow of RIAT's past but if you consider the general downturn in defence budgets, increased overseas deployment and general shrinkage of the world's air arms it's still a very good participation and one that the rest of the world's airshows are very envious of. Highlights of the static parks included a large contigent from the USAF and a RIAT debut for the Indian Air Force with two Su-30MKI Flanker-C fighters and a Il-78MKI Midas tanker aircraft from their deployment at RAF Waddington.

Show time....

Airshows are all about Colour, Noise and Spectacle. Il Frecce Tricolori certainly are masters of the art with their smoke (above) while Sqn Ldr Andy Pawsey guides the crowd through the new  RAF Role Demonstration which is undoubtely one of the weekend's highlights.

On the home front, the static displays were slightly dissappointing with a very small and low key RAF involvement which is surprising for a show organised by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. The army support too was slightly dissappointing with just a solitary Lynx whereas the Royal Navy still at least show off a number of aircraft from RNAS Culdrose and Yeovilton. One very welcome UK participant was a Jaguar T2 from QinetiQ at Boscombe Down at least ensuring that this venerable type at least made one more visit to a major airshow in the year it was retired from front line service.

In the air, RIAT once again held the biggest flying display in the UK this year and indeed, the biggest flying display ever attempted at over nine hours long. We detail the flying elsewhere but we really do feel that RIAT should look at shortening and tightening the displays for future shows. The displays are all very good but lose some of their impact. The number of movements by the Gulfstream VIP aircraft also detracts from the flying display. However we must say that the items RIAT had it's flying display this year were first class. The Royal Air Force's "Role Demonstration" was a particularly highlight adding that little bit extra to the colour, noise and spectacle of the flying display. RIAT was the final stop for the Role Demo Team this year and infact comprised of a number of new members from the teams that visited Biggin Hill, Cosford, Kemble and Waddington. As at all these events it was warmly (very warm when the pyros go off!) it was well received by the public and we all hope that the demo returns next year. The RAF also did rather well with the weekend's special formation bringing the four original Spitfires and Hurricane together with the Red Arrows. It was infact a big weekend for the national displays teams as RIAT brought together the Frecce Tricolori, Patrulla Aguila, Royal Jordanian Falcons and the USAF's Thunderbirds - this was surely a meeting not seen in the UK for a very long time and must go down as something of a season highlight.

Royal International Air Tattoo was everything we expect providing a truly spectacular event showcasing the best the aviation world can offer. The ground exhibition is second to none and facilities are excellent and praise must be aimed at the staff of RAFCTE and volunteers who make it happen. Tim Prince said "It has probably been the most difficult run-up to an Air Tattoo that I have experienced in recent years simply because the weather was so unpredictable. We had to consider the impact of heavy rain on our car parks and looked at various scenarios. Thankfully, in the end, people were able to enjoy the Air Tattoo in fine weather. I am not only pleased for the public but also for the 3,000-plus volunteers who give up so much of their time each year to stage the world’s greatest airshow." RIAT returns on the 12th-13th July 2008.

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