Untitled Document
Royal International Air Tattoo 2018



"...you can't beat a great chunk of heavy metal being thrown around the sky"

It says something about what is probably the best airshow in the world that expectations are so high that when one of the display acts doesn't happen as planned there is a feeling of great disappointment.  This despite much of the day being filled with air display acts of the finest quality.  I chose to go on the first ever Friday with a full display because of the RAF100 flypast.  I had ventured to London the previous Tuesday to see the full flypast which was great but very subdued light meant that it wasn't the greatest for pictures. 


This meant that anticipation of the cut down version at Fairford was even higher.  Unfortunately by about midday, Fairford was surrounded by heavy rain storms and fifteen minutes before the scheduled time, the flypast was cancelled.  A few other items were cancelled as well and the feeling set in that Friday wasn't the best choice.  Nonsense of course, RIAT has set the bar so high that even when a few things don't go to plan, it is still one of the greatest aviation spectacles that you will ever see.

The static line up was very impressive as usual.  The stars for me being the line up of 7 F16s and having two Hunters, not something we would still be expecting to see.  The United States once again provided incredible support to a show, 3000 miles from home.


The display kicked off promptly at 10 with a spirited display from a Polish F16.  It soon became clear from a photography perspective that conditions were far from ideal.  There was a think covering of milky cloud interspersed with a few decent patches of blue and heat haze was very evident.


To me the French military are the star turns at many an international air display in the 21st century and the next act Couteau Delta and their Mirage 2000Ds lived up to my expectation.   They are superb to watch as they take over the sky with the smoothest of displays.  Later in the day the French Navy Rafale pair put on an equally impressive show and we also had a great solo effort from the French AF Rafale.  Viva La France.


The BBMF gave their usual crowd pleasing performance as did the last RAF A400 to be delivered, still in Airbus markings.  The A400 is always impressive and even more so in a line up that fall seriously short of the heavy brigade.  Fast jets and display teams are nice but for me you can't beat a great chunk of heavy metal being thrown around the sky.  Next was solo Tutor followed by the ever excellent Red Arrows followed by the Swiss PC and F18.  If you've never seen it the F18 flying alongside the PC7s is impressive and the PC7s put on a nice, if somewhat too long show.  


The Patrilla Aguila put on a good smooth show but like the Swiss, I feel that the length of the performance is a tad too long.  The USAF F35 show is an impressive power performance but sometimes it felt like it was in the next county.  Roll forward 10 years and RIAT will be showing F35s and F35s.  The Czech Grippen showed of it's agility but a dull grey airframe against a dull grey sky doesn't produce the greatest theatre. 


Disappointing display of the day came from the Italian C27.  Not the previous over the top (literally) performance we have come to expect but a rather tamer version.  Similarly the RAF Chinhook display seemed rather subdued.  I believe they have pulled back on some of the more extreme manoeuvrers.  It's still a cracking display though. 

It's a big treat to have the flashy Canadian F18 on this side of the pond but I think the Swiss one may just have the edge.  The Aermachi m346 is a lively but unexciting performer which arguably could be said about the Norwegion Vampire duo but just to see them in the air is exciting enough.  Solo Turk is , well, Solo Turk, always a great performer.  I was leaving during the SU27 and Frecce Tricoleri but as both produce consistently great performances, my comments are unnecessary.

The show is a bit predictable but when you are that good it is somewhat inevitable.  I drew the short straw by going Friday with some good extras on Saturday and Sunday in better weather but will I be back next year, of course I will.

Review by Trevor Carpenter

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