Royal International Air Tattoo 2010, RAF Fairford - Review

The Royal International Air Tattoo is the biggest airshow of the year for the public. 155,000 spectators packed in to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire which hosted the RAF's "Flagship Tribute" to the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the operational theme "Training 2010." Over 200 aircraft participated in the flying and static displays celebrating a wide variety of the form of flight with Hot Air Balloons, Gliders, piston engined warbirds and the latest fast jets. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from Gloucestershire. Video highlights courtesy of Planes TV

The public days of RIAT were very different. Saturday saw a mainly bright and sunny day allowing a near complete flying display while Sunday's low cloud base caused a few disruptions to proceedings. As always though, there was a huge amount of activity in the air and on the ground to enjoy. The concerts were again extended this year with more acts performing throughout the day. The eastern end of the showground was transformed into a Battle of Britain airfield with replica aircraft and re-enactors. TRI@RIAT has been growing for the past few years, and 2010 was its biggest exhibition to date and included stunt driving displays by Paul Swift amongst other attractions.
The Flying Display had a number of highlights, including memorable displays from the F-22A Raptor, the UK display debut of the Airbus A400M, the We Fly! Team, Patrouille de France as well as our own Red Arrows and the stunning RAF Typhoon and BBMF Spitfire pairs display. The static park however was a little disappointing. It's understandable in these times of dwindling budgets and ever increasing operations but with just 14 airframes from the Royal Air Force on display, it's a far cry from the Air Tattoo's of five years ago, let alone those of the mid-nineties! Of those aircraft that did make it, the Polish Air Force Sukhoi Su-22UM-4 Fitter and the Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II were real gems as were the US Navy P-3C Orion and the Omani C-130H Hercules.
One of the great growing concerns about RIAT is the value for money. The cost of RIAT has reached an all-time high in 2010. A ticket price are understandable, but was the souvenir programme really worth a whopping £9? Even Farnborough's was just £6 and that contained a much higher level of production! That said, the prices of food and drink have been checked, and certainly represent more value for money than we've seen at other airshows around the UK this year. There were also concerns within the FRIAT stand too with grandstand seating that fell apart the moment it started to be used! With that in mind and the price of the premier "Mach Three" package rapidly encroaching on the £200 mark, it's unsurprising that many maybe thinking twice before committing to RIAT in future years. Having said that, FRIAT still offers more than most "premium" airshow packages offered by the major shows and does add greatly to the full RIAT 'experience.'
However, 2010 was a good Royal International Air Tattoo and provided a definite highlight of 2010. There are few other events that can provide such an inspirational day of thunderous noise and excitement. Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said: "We were delighted to welcome large crowds on both days, and I'm very proud of the Air Tattoo team for putting on another world-class event. The support we receive from the RAF, the USAF, sponsors, and air forces across the world is incredible and it is important that we recognise that fact. Without their help and support, there would be no Air Tattoo!" However, we suspect there are tough times ahead for the Air Tattoo as airshow participation from military air arms reduces due to operational and budgetary constraints. The key to success will be keeping up with these changes to keep the Air Tattoo a world class event. RIAT 2011 is scheduled for 16th-17th July 2011, we're already looking forward to it!

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