The late 1990’s were golden times for the Royal International Air Tattoo, and nigh on impossible to repeat. Not only had the thawing relations between East and West produce some stunning appearances by the Air Forces of the former Warsaw Pact, but also the United States Air Force was finally letting its ‘Stealth’ strike aircraft be seen in public outside the US. Naturally, it was RIAT and Mildenhall that first saw these remarkable machines – first the F-117A Nighthawk and then the B-2A Spirit.
The B-2A was always the less well seen of the two. Most of its airshow appearances in the UK have been fleeting glimpses during a fairly sedate (and quite often high and distant) flypast or. RIAT though managed to secure the first appearance on the ground during the 1997 Tattoo when one landed for a quick refuel and the first static display by one in 1999.
However more recently, the type has been absent from RIAT line-ups. That changed in 2012 when the USAF finally sent one for static display. The aircraft’s arrival was memorable for many reasons. Over the official arrival days there was no mention of the B-2 in the daily official movements lists. Eventually the news went round that the B-2 would be one of the final arrivals on the Friday evening. Friday saw some pretty dire weather with rain for most of the day – it became a very long wait to see the aircraft arrival if indeed it would arrive!!
Most were absolutely soaked by evening, and many enthusiasts had headed for the warmth of home or their accommodation with just some hardy souls hanging on for the bitter end. Then, just as the wet weather started to clear the distinctive sinister shape of the B-2 emerged from the storm clouds in the clear skies to the east of Fairford. It may have been raining but everyone emerged to watch the remarkable flying wing make its final approach into Fairford in time for the weekend. It may have been a long, but it was worth it. Over the weekend the B-2 was the star attraction on the ground even though it was parked well away from the main showground!