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Royal International Air Tattoo 2014

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Air Displays 2010

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RAF Fairford, a base nestling in the Gloucester countryside would see thousands upon thousands attending this years Air Tattoo. Fairford which is currently in standby was also used up until quite recently by the United States Air Force and was capable of receiving the Space Shuttle should the need ever have arise. This years show was scheduled to see the UK debut of the U.S. Built F35 Lightning II from the Lockheed Martin stable and as we are all well aware by now this was cancelled due to an engine fire on one of the aircraft which subsequently grounded the entire fleet until the cause could be identified. Understandably people were a little upset that the billed star of the show could not attend, but the safety of the pilot and the airframe were paramount considering the Transatlantic crossing involved. There was however a full size model available to give some idea as to the scale and looks of the new airframe,

I have to say I love the look of it and look forward to seeing the real deal in the UK skies in the not too distant future. As I was attending on the F35 media day with Lockheed Martin I was also lucky enough to get a flight in a simulator, that of the new F16 cockpit where the pilots analogue centre console has been replaced with a touch screen one and the chap who was teaching me to fly it (it flew itself pretty much) answered any questions I had, the main question for me was how realistic is the cockpit on the simulator, his answer was that is is exactly the same, so for me flying an F-16 simulator was a pretty cool experience.

This years RIAT is definately my most attended having been to the F35 media day, Red Arrows pit day, park and view, and from one of the farms nearby where lots of visitors camp and go in to the show, so an all round view of the airshow from differing perspectives. The park and view for arrivals may seem a little on the pricey side at £20.00 per person but it really isn't that bad when you consider not only do you get the arrivals but a fair assortment of PDA display routines during the course of the day, I will definately go to one of the P&V next year as well as the show.

I couldn't help but notice that there was a seemingly certain sparseness on the ground in both static display material and tradeing stalls, when accompanied by my other half she likes to have a look around all, and I mean all the traders, but even to my untrained eyes I thought there was quite a few taders of aviation goodies missing from this years show, I can remember going from one end to the other of the static park and stalls being constantly distracted by all that was on offer but apart from a huge amount of weaving my way through the attending public not a lot caught my eye. Whether this is down to the recent reccession affecting regular stallholders or indeed down to the cost of a pitch at such a large event I dont know. Maybe I was not in the right area(s), but at least there were some attractions to keep the younger attendees entertained and lighten the heavy burden of an overflowing parental wallet.

The crowd favourite the RAF Red Arrows seem to have an ongoing theme of special flypasts which have been happeneing for some time now and this years flypast no Pit day was with an airframe from each of the display teams attending including Patrouille Suisse, Frecce Tricolori, Patrouille de France and the Breitling Jet team.

One item on RIAT's agenda was a first for me, though I was lucky enough to have two firsts, and RIAT seem to always have something that will be on my list of never seens, the first pair came in the shape of two Polish air force SU22 (NATO codename “Fitter”), with the Cold War jets putting on a low wide flat display meant that any photo opportunities had to taken during the closest passes parralel to the crowdline otherwise its gear down image of the take off or landings, at one point they were so far out from the airfield that visitors were wondering where they were displaying, one casual tongue in cheek remark was that they must have been doing a flypast for RAF Brize Norton, either way I still enjoyed seeing these.

The second pair was of the Hellenic air force A7 Corsairs which were going on to static display so it was nice to be there on the arrivals and catch them in the air performing one flypast and landing, both aircraft in different paint schemes one of which carried a Pirate image with the slogan “Fly Low, Hit Hard” emblazoned on the airframe. I would imagine there would have been Corsairs at a UK show if not at RIAT itself but have to say this was quite memorable for me and I suspect many other aviation enthusiasts and photographers alike. This year will see the retirement of the A7's so unless a historic aviation society manages to keep one of the type in flying order then its sadly unlikely that we will see these again. Back with the Polish contingent were the Orlik Aerobatic Team of the Polish Air Force, The name "Orlik" is derived from the aircraft used in the display namely the Orlik PZL-130 and carrying I thought quite a striking complimentary livery, one of the team on arrival patriotically held up the National flag of Poland in the back of the cockpit.

Italian additions to the show came in the form of the Frecce Tricolori, A Eurofighter Typhoon and a Tornado IDS. The Tornado display was a very welcome site in the skies above Fairford, I mean we have the Tornado currently still in service and we are unable to send them to airshows, I seriously hope that someone somewhere in high office rethinks this for the next display season and hopefully re-introduces it either as the Role Demo or as a singleton, we punters love our Tonkas, a sentiment often echoed through the crowds at various shows throughout the UK.

There seems to be something of a gradual return of US participation at airshows this year, albeit some service personell and a few static aircraft, this year at RIAT it was noted that the McDonnell Douglas F-15E would be on static display and we are hopeful that next year will see something more of a return just like the good old days. This may seem optimistic to some on the airshow circuit but all the same fingers crossed for next season.

Royal Air Force attendance this year would see the Tucano, Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 plus the RAF Cinook and in a way the A400 Atlas was there which the Royal Air Force will be taking delivery of our first of the fleet some time soon. Noel Rees, this years display pilot gave the Typhoon a full height display with plenty of afterburner action from the EJ200 turbojets, each one dishing out 20,000lb of thrust and much to the chagrin of nearby sensitive car alarms, much to the amusement of us spectators, The Chinook with Charlie Brown at the flight yoke treated us to an amazing display of the agility and versatility of the troop/cargo twin rotor with a decent dollop of blade slap, never ceases to amaze spectators who witness this for the first time.
 
 
The Battle of Britain memorial flight woke up the nostalgic senses with the heavy drone of multiple Merlin engines, Lancaster Bomber (PA474) and Spitfire (MK356). A prolonged round of applause from an admiring public who clearly adored the flypast by the RAF Coningsby based BBMF, well done chaps. Many days of attendance culminated in different viewpoints and different aspects of the show which will be helpful for my decisions on where to go and on which days for RIAT next year.
The team put on an excellent and varied show on each of the days though the general feeling from a few spectators were of the sheer distance of some displays, so how about including more lower topside crowdline passes especially from the rare or smaller types displaying, bring back the thrills of the air show within reasonable safety margins. I look forward to attending next year and hopefully the Lockheed Martin F35 will be in full attendance once the niggles are sorted out.
 
Review by Ken Brannen
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