report by: Thierry letellier
2011 marked the 40th Anniversary of the world famous Royal International Air Tattoo. In 1971, in aid of the Royal Air Forces Association, North Weald hosted the first Air Tattoo. Later, the Tattoo moved onto Greenham Common, and ended up at what is now considered to be the home of the Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford. Themes for this year’s anniversary edition were STAR 11 (Strike, Attack and Reconnaissance), Tiger 50 (to mark the 50th anniversary of the NATO Tiger Association), and of course RIAT’s own 40th Birthday.
The Tiger theme was well supported with F-16s from Belgium, Mirage 2000s from France and Tornados from Germany all present, wearing attractive and eye catching colour schemes applied for the official Tiger Meet that was held in France earlier this year. ‘Heavies’ included an RC-135V from the USAF and an E-6 from US NAVY. The Royal Air Force’s latest aircraft, the Airbus A330, was another attraction in this section. Then we had an edgy CASA 295-AEW ; to complete this list , a very rare and discret A-310 from German Air Force.The main attraction for many enthusiasts were an Ukrainian Air Force IL-76 and Su-27. Booked by RIAT ‘for the enthusiasts’ and as part of their 40th Anniversary.
The superb RAF Tornado role demonstration, which brought plenty of noise with high speed, low level flying and pyrotechnics. The Red Arrows put on their usual highly slick display before the French Air Force Rafale showed what a fourth generation fighter being flown by a regular Air Force pilot really can do. The Frecce Tricolori put on their typically flamboyant show before the BAe Systems Typhoon put on a stunning display with a full weapons load. Attending the show as operational commitments currently prevent the RAF from displaying the Typhoon, BAe Chief test pilot Mark Bowman was awarded the Steedman Sword for his display.
The 40th Anniversary of RIAT was marked by the Old Flying Machine Company’s warbird pair of Spitfire MH434 and P-51D Mustang “Ferocious Frankie”. The significance of this display to the anniversary was the simple fact that MH434 appeared at the very first IAT in 1971. The slow pace continued with the Belgian Air Force Red Devils, RAF Tutor and Tucano and the The Royal Jordanian Falcons, with only the ever impressive RAF Chinook and the Army Air Corps Apache injecting any real life into the display. The ‘Solo Türk’ F-16 and Saudi Hawks, both of which were UK debutants.
Six Hawker Hunters marked another anniversary, this time the 60th of that particular type, as Team Viper’s four aircraft were joined by the Swiss Hunter Team’s T68 and Jonathan Whaley’s F58A “Miss Demeanour”. When the A-10 took to the skies that it felt like the Air Tattoo had resumed. Thankfully, the USAF West Coast Demonstration Team’s Warthog display was mighty, showing the performance of the aircraft as well as simulating strafing and bombing runs.
On both mornings it was raining fairly heavily with a low cloud base which prevented flying getting underway at the advertised time. On Saturday it was not possible for the flying to start until around midday and, with seemingly no flexibility shown, a number of star items were lost from the schedule that day. Despite this weather problem ; i was globaly satisfied by this edition of RIAT.