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Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2011

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The day had arrived, the skies overcast and a weather forecast promising us a let up to enjoy our day out at Fairford, as far as I am concerned, the 'be all and end all' of air shows. We arrived early, about 8am and were surprised that were no queues, they did however start forming shortly afterwards, phew, we were lucky.

As the show was not scheduled to start until 10am, it gave us plenty of time to indulge ourselves in some serious in depth viewing of the static display of aircraft. I must say that there were fewer there this year than in previous years, but never the less that didn’t detract from our enjoyment. I myself marvelled at the size of the B52, even if it was observed from the confines of an umbrella, yes the drizzle had started, but that was not going to put us off.

 

Eventually we made our way to the observation area, having indulged ourselves in a couple of fresh doughnuts and a cup out tea. Unfortunately the weather did not want to clear up and the show was put back to 11am, finally starting at about 11:15am with the SAAB 105 OE from the Austrian Air Force, a terrific solo display to start off the day’s entertainment. Following shortly after was the Italian Air Force Alenia C-27J Spartan, a wonderful workhorse and so manoeuvrable for its size, no surprise then that it's display secured two prizes including Best Individual Flying Display.

Roaring in from our right came the fantastic F-16 Falcon from 349 Sqn, Belgian Air Component, and what a display of speed and aerobatics the pilot gave us, it was hard for me to keep my camcorder on him, I have quite a bit of footage of his tail plane. Three F-16's displayed during the day but it was Maj Murat Keles from the 141st Sqn, Turkish Air Force who won Best Overall Flying Demonstration at this years show.

One of my old favourites is the Hawker Hunter, from my army day’s way back when, I still marvel at their speed and agility, and a plane 50 odd years old. Six Hunters comprising the 4 ship Team Viper, Miss Demeanour (in her now famous yellow, red and blue paint scheme) and the tiger marked Hunter from the Swiss Hunter Team gave a nostalgic display in this 700mph machine.

Following on, the next aircraft to wow us was the Panavia Tornado IDS from the Italian Air Force, what a machine this is, one of my top aircraft, with its swept wings, the turns and spins were awesome, it’s hard to believe this aircraft is 37 years old. It certainly flies well on my Flight Sim. Following along doing some spectacular synchronised flying were the Royal Saudi Air force Aerobatic team in their BAe Mk65 Hawks, carrying out manoeuvres similar in fashion to the Red Arrows, they too were oustanding.

The weather took a turn for the better and with patches of blue skies the air show really picked up. It’s hard to describe every aircraft's individual routine as they dart around the skies but every one was a wonder to watch. The Chinook arrived and drew gasps from the crowd as the pilot did some amazing stunts, turning it round on the proverbial sixpence; it’s easy to see why it’s used to such an extent in support of our ground forces. We mustn’t forget the Apache attack helicopter, what a display this guy gave us, including a loop, its incredible what this machine can do, I’m glad it’s on our side.

We had a slight break and decided to look around the stalls to see what was on offer. Well there were loads of them; I don’t think we went round them all because we wanted to get back to see our favourite of all time, the Vulcan bomber; we never miss it and by the look of the crowd, neither do they. Watching it circle round is a delight to behold, and as usual we got to see the business end as it circled just in front of us all with its bomb doors open.

For those who had not witnessed it before, perhaps the greatest thrill of the day came from the runway attack by the Tornado’s, giving us a small insight into the fear it must instil in an enemy. The pyrotechnics were spot on with great plumes of flames and smoke, I think everybody was totally thrilled, judging by the reaction of the audience.

This years RIAT (some said it could have been renamed the F16 show) was a difficult one to judge. A little more variety wouldnt go amiss - once you have seen one Apache.... The show wasnt aided by the weather, and perhaps this caused a little loss of sparkle, but overall I think the hard working people at RIAT (if you haven't read it - go and buy the book 'Airshow') deserve a pat on the back yet again, and I for one look forward to next year.

Review by Colin (Airscene)