Air Tattoo Celebrates RAF100 in Style
A record crowd of 185,000 people enjoyed a feast of flying as the Royal International Air Tattoo staged international celebrations marking the Royal Air Force’s Centenary at RAF Fairford.
In total, 302 aircraft, from 43 air arms representing 30 nations attended the airshow, of which 121 took part in the flying display.
Among the flying display highlights were a number of unique flypasts. A special tribute to the legendary 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron saw the iconic Lancaster bomber from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly in formation with the squadron’s current aircraft, the Tornado, and the RAF’s new state-of-the-art F-35B Lightning II. Another flypast featured nine RAF Typhoons in formation, as part of centenary celebrations.
Other flying highlights included displays by the US Air Force Heritage Flight; the Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker; the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet; the French Aeronavale Rafale M duo; the Italian Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display team and the RAF’s Red Arrows. Visitors on Saturday were treated to a rare flypast by a US Air Force B-2A Spirit stealth bomber that had made the round trip from its base in Missouri, US.
In the static aircraft park there were examples of aircraft from around the world including debut appearances by the Embraer KC-390 from Brazil, the Kawasaki C-2 from Japan and the HH-101A CaeSAR tactical helicopter from the Italian Air Force.
Just days prior to the airshow, history was made as the first transatlantic flight by a civilian-registered Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) touched down, ushering in a new era in unmanned aviation. The SkyGuardian is the latest version of the General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted air system. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours at a time at altitudes of up 40,000ft, when SkyGuardian comes into RAF service it will be known as ‘Protector’.
Among the Royal guests in attendance at the Air Tattoo were HRH the Duke of Kent, Patron of the RAF Charitable Trust; HRH Prince Michael of Kent; HRH The Princess Royal and HRH Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein of the Jordanian Royal Family.
Guests from the world of politics included the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond; the Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson; the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans, Tobias Ellwood and the Minister for Defence Procurement Guto Bebb.
In total, the Air Tattoo hosted 79 military delegations including 64 military chiefs from around the world including Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier; the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones; Chairman of the NATO Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach and Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger.
Among the industry sponsors in attendance were BAE Systems’ CEO Sir Roger Carr; Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson; Boeing CEO Leanne Caret; Airbus CEO Tom Enders; Babcock CEO Archie Bethel; Senior Vice President Fujitsu Duncan Tait and Leidos CEO Roger Krone. Celebrities included Carol Vorderman, Sir David Jason, Susannah Reid and vocal group Blake.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Andy Armstrong said he was delighted that so many people had turned up to celebrate the RAF’s centenary at RAF Fairford.
He said: “This year’s airshow has been many years in the planning and I think my team, including our amazing army of 1,500 volunteers, has really delivered something special to the nation.
“We’ve enjoyed some spectacular flying in glorious sunshine and a superb range of entertainment on the showground. Of course, it was disappointing we were unable to feature our planned RAF100 flypast on the Friday due to a localised weather front however, everyone understands that safety has to be our number one priority.
“The rest of our seven-hour flying programme went ahead as planned each day and provided a wonderful spectacle for the large crowds.”
Regular Air Tattoo visitor George Humphries, 55, from London, said: “The Air Tattoo is on my mind from the minute I leave the show, until I get in the car and start to drive to it the next year. It is so exciting. It really is the number one show in the UK.”
Robert Allen, 37, from Barwell, Leicestershire, who was visiting the Air Tattoo for the first time said: “I am here with my brother, dad and four of our children. It is mine and my brother’s birthday treat and what a treat it has been. I’d definitely recommend a visit to next year’s show.”
Next year’s Air Tattoo takes place on July 19-21, 2019.
Image by Richard Wintle/Calyx Pictures