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Royal International Air Tattoo 2013

 

 

Over Sexed, Over Paid and Over Here – if only!

 

With temperatures soaring all week, I don’t think there was a single member of the crowd on Saturday who wasn’t grateful for a drop in temperature at RAF Fairford. The weather and temperature returned to push up the mercury on Sunday but somehow, even that failed to warm the cockles of aviation enthusiasts’ hearts!

Of course, there was nothing “cool” about a feeling of slight disappointment pervading the air – the feeling that the good years may be finally over and that RIAT may never be the same again.

Cotswolds Airport led the “revolution” last year when the original airshow was cancelled and then replaced by the more commercially themed “Best of British” Show – was this an Airshow or just a travelling Helter Skelter with a few flying displays to keep the aircraft enthusiasts amused? Certainly, the enthusiastic long lens brigade had given Kemble a miss – I suspect because the list of participating aircraft was shorter than would have been the norm.

Somehow, RIAT had a similar feel to it. We diehard aircraft nutters want noise, aerobatics and “daring do” – not family orientated themes which have little or nothing to do with the thrills generated by the development of increasing amounts of both engine and avionics computer power.

We grudgingly understand that organisers are at the mercy of Defence Chiefs, Military Strategists and Politicians. I am sure that had the organisers of RIAT not been hit by the financial constraints of air forces around the world, they would have produced an Airshow of the very high standards we have come to take for granted. For what they did manage to achieve, with the limited hardware available, they should be applauded.

To me, RIAT was always underpinned by the massive presence of the US Air Force – even if, in the latter years, we had all begun to wonder if the Yanks ever built much else other than the ubiquitous F16!

Overpaid and oversexed in England from the 1940’s onwards, the very fact that they were not “over here”, for Fairford, meant that the glut of F16’s would have been a small price to pay for their, almost routine, presence.

Of course, that is not to say that the flying by other Air Forces and Countries was not what we have come to expect in the very best of aviation traditions at, what is often billed as, one of the world’s biggest international airshows. The display pilots all did a great job.

 

Arrivals day had seen the Canberra fly into Fairford - much to the chagrin of all those who had hear d a whisper on the grapevine but had immediately dismissed it as “misinformation”.

I was rather surprised that it was only on static display for the duration of the show but am not privy to the reason why it didn’t give a short, gentle display - if just to acknowledge tha very fact that it was, indeed, back in full airworthy condition after many months of rumour and speculation.

Events on the ground and subsequent planning will never detract from the skill and talent of the pilots, aircrew and ground teams. Their professionalism always carries the day and this was true of the Italian Team – unfortunately giving a “flat” display on the Saturday but the weather permitted a full display on Sunday.

The Spartan impressed again and gave an amazing display more akin to that of a fighter than a very agile transport aircraft.

Any highlights? Yes, there were more than you might have expected. The Vulcan - for which we have run out of endearments and plaudits. The very flashy Mitchell B25 and the Connie were impressive and the aerobatic teams injected some excitement into the flying program.

Still a highlight and always a highlight, the Arrows escorted the British Airways A380 on the Saturday and the A400M on the Sunday. Looking stunning together, the pilots and aircrew concerned gave of their best to produce a vision highlighting British aviation skill and aeronautical prowess.

So what of RIAT in the future? Well, there have been drastic cuts in military budgets and RIAT served to reflect the fall of the axe wielded by our lords and masters.

Hopefully, the Americans and other air forces will be back in years to come as economic conditions improve. It is possible that is many years or even decades away. In the meantime, we should content ourselves with what is available.

Missing RIAT is not really an option and with other Airshows gaining ground with increasing numbers of aircraft types, the organisers will need to offer a little bit more of the old RIAT in order to maintain its high position on the Display Season’s “must go” Calnedar. But, RIAT is not a cheap day out so, value for money in austere times is even more important, if you want Joe Public to attend.

 
Review by Ken Brannen
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