2010 UK Airshows : REVIEW
Royal International Air Tattoo 2010 - Flying Display ReviewThe Royal International Air Tattoo's flying display is the biggest in the UK running for at least eight hours and is very much the focal point of the show. Each year, the flying display has to represent all the major themes that each Tattoo encompasses as well as providing eye-catching displays to enthral the public.
Under the directorship of Geoff Brindle, the 2010 display featured the very new, the old, the very fast and noisy as well as some very unusual acts for a Air Tattoo flying display making it a very varied eight hours.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from crowdline at Fairford. All photography copyright of the Author. Video highlights courtesy of Planes TV.
Putting together eight hours of flying displays must be a very difficult task. The many varied types of aircraft on show all have different requirements and the public must be kept happy too with a balanced programme. The weather too can play a major part as it did on the Sunday for the second year running.
The opening display on both days at RIAT should have been a new display for European airshows, the USAF Academy's TG-10C Kestrel sailplane. The TG-10C formed part of the "Training 2010" theme and is used by the USAF to train spin recovery techniques. The aircraft was brought into RAF Fairford aboard a C-17A Globesmaster prior to the show and was due to "aero-towed" by a locally based Maule 235 from Shrivenham. The weather over the three days preceding the show negated a rehearsal and a display on Saturday was cancelled due to "operational" reasons so Sunday was the only chance to see the display. Low clouds played their part in shortening the display further which amounted to just a couple of passes on tow with some wingtip smoke before a gentle descent to land which when compared to equivalent European displays may be a little uninspiring!
However, the USAF did contribute an awful lot more to the flying displays and it was one of their strongest showings for years. Headlining the entire displays was of course the F-22A Raptor. Quite simply, the Raptor does make all other fast jet displays seem just a little mundane with its thrust vectoring antics and sheer presence. It's unsurprising that Major Dave "Zeke" Skalicky walked away with three flying display awards on the Sunday night! Opening Saturday's display was a MC-130H Combat Talon from the USAF Special Operations Command dropping parachutists that seems to use their entire western end of the airfield as a dropzone.
Another USAF aircraft dropping yet more parachutists was a Air Education and Training Command (AETC) C-17A Globemaster III from Altus AFB. The C-17s parachutists were from a team called the "Wings of Blue" and could only jump on Saturday due to Sunday's low cloud base. After it's para-dropping duties, the C-17 also put on a short but impressive solo routine including an insanely tight 360 degree turn and an awesome short tactical landing. Also from Altus AFB and only seen in the air during Sunday's flying display was a KC-135R Stratotanker, also from AETC. Had the weather been good enough on Sunday, the KC-135R would have formed up with the C-17 for a refuelling demonstration but the two aircraft were forced to perform a few flypasts each. The USAF also had a B-52H Stratofortress in the flying display which put on a number of flypasts during the weekend.
Not to be outdone in the flying display was the Royal Air Force, the sole UK armed service to be represented in the flying displays. The training theme was represented well with the Tutor T1, Tucano T1, Hawk T1 and King Air solos appearing at various points in the display.
The RAF frontline types were also well represented. It was also good to see the first Harrier GR9 display at RIAT for some time and the new Tornado GR4 role demonstration as part of the flying displays, though the pyrotechinics for the latter were positions well off to the western end of the of display line due to potential FOD issues. Completing the line up of fast jet displays was the Typhoon FGR4/T3 solo flown by Flt Lt Tim Clements.
Making its penultimate appearance of the display season was the RAF Chinook HC2 role demonstration. It's been very good to have the all too brief appearance of the Chinook on the display circuit this year as it's perhaps the most tangible link the RAF displays have with the front line in Afghanistan. Hopefully, it's appearances and those by the Tornado GR4 have made people think more about what the RAF contributes to operations out there.
Away from the RAF displays, the Training theme seemed particularly poorly covered by the flying display with the only obvious participants the stunning French Air Force Alpha Jet E display and the Pilatus PC-21!
The PC-21 was just one of a number of "trade" participants in the flying displays, though was the only one not to go on to perform at Farnborough. Grabbing all the headlines was the public display debut of the Airbus A400M. This future airlifter for the RAF and other European is very important to the local area with the wings being built in Bristol. The A400M is an impressive performer showing it's impressive agility and performance to full effect over Fairford. Slightly less impressive was the single and very quiet flypast by the Sukhoi Superjet 100 which did seem very out of place.
Boeing displayed a very anonymous looking F/A-18F Super Hornet. The "Super Bug" is always an impressive performer at an airshow with its outstanding ability to change direction quickly and produced epic amounts of vapour across it's wings. The F/A-18F was just one of the international fast jets in the display. There were two F-16AM displays from the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The latter joined up with its AH-64DN compatriot for a very rare and special formation before splitting into their respective solo displays. The Swedish Air Force also made a welcome return with their SAAB JAS-39C Gripen which always puts on a very dynamic display.
But the display was not just about noisy jets. Lunchtime at RIAT traditionally beings some relative peace to the skies over RAF Fairford with some of the quieter acts in the display. Pick Pargeter displayed his "airtattoo.com" sponsored Pitts S-1S Special. Rich puts on a superb display in the little aircraft but we fear that such a small aircraft with no smoke may have seems a little too distant for those at either end of the display line.
One of the surprise highlights of the display for your author were the "We Fly!" Team from Italy. At the beginning of the year, the team performed at the Al Ain Aerobatics Show where they were first noticed by Geoff Brindle, RIAT's flying display director who invited them to RIAT. The team is led by Alessandro Paleri. He was involved in a diving accident in 1987 which left him quadriplegic. He is an aerospace engineer by trade and learnt to fly in 1999. Joining him in the team are fellow wheelchair bound pilot Marco Cherubini and flying instructor Eric Kustatschar. Flying the little Texan Top Class 550 LSA, the team put on a superb display in bumpy conditions with great use of pyrotechnic and normal diesel type smoke systems fitted to their aircraft. The team also provide a unique link between the airshow flying the RIAT's charity, Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. We really hope they go on to perform again in the UK soon.
"We Fly!" were just one of the the international display teams in the flying display. The Royal Jordanian Falcons are regulars at RIAT as are the Red Arrows. It was really good to welcome back the Patrouille Suisse too with their very potent F-5E Tiger II aircraft. However, it was the Patrouille de France that seems to capture the imagination this year with s superb display that we look forward to seeing again at Duxford later in the year.
Away from the Battle of Britain theme, there were few historic types in the display. On Saturday, the crowd were treated to a solo display by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster B1. Its jet successor, the Avro Vulcan B2 XH558 also took part in the flying, although for once played second fiddle to F-22 Raptor and the Airbus A400M for headlines during the weekend despite it's impressive displays.
However, the centre piece to the flying displays was the "RAF's Flagship Tribute" to the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. The sequence was opened by the superb Boeing 757-200 display from the Royal New Zealand Air Force which is always jaw-dropping. Following the 757 display on Saturday there was a cavalcade of fast jets getting airborne including two USAFE F-15C Eagles, a French Air Force Mirage 2000B and a pair of Belgian F-16AMs. Sadly, poor weather in the holding areas meant the international fast jets were unable to participate in Sunday. This was followed by a missing man formation from four 19(R) Squadron BAE Systems Hawk T1 and T2 aircraft flying overhead a gathering of fourteen Spitfires, Hurricanes, one Messerschmitt Me108, a Messerschmitt Me109G-4 from EADS in Germany and ARCo's Hispano HA-112-MIL Buchon (Me109J) on the runway.
As the Hawks cleared the warbirds took off in stream before forming up into four formations of three to four aircraft for a number of passes up and down the crowdline. While it was impressive to watch, many have commented and we agree that it would have been nice to see a little more of the EADS Me109G-4 which was making its UK debut. For such a unique and special aircraft, it did seem a bit of waste that it wasn't shown off more! The warbirds were followed (on Saturday) by the multi-national flypast led by the 19(R) Squadron Hawks with a RAF Tornado F3 in close attendance making its final RIAT flying display appearance. Following on was the RNZAF B757 escorted by the USAFE F-15s while the rear formation comprised the FAF Mirage 2000B leading the two Belgian F-16s.
The Battle of Britain tributes were not over though. The very end of the flying display on both days saw the awesome RAF Typhoon and BBMF Spitfire IX synchro pair close the flying display. It was a superb way to round off a busy day's flying. Overall Saturday's flying display was one of the better ones staged at RIAT in the last few years with a nice balance of action and noise throughout the day. Sunday's poor weather complicated the display with a number of no-shows but still delivered a worthwhile day of flying even if the crwod were slightly disappointed by the truncated Battle of Britain salute.
What did you think of the show? Which displays did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? Let us know on our Facebook page!