After a superb three days' flying at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2017, the airshow's best displays were honoured at the traditional Sunday night hangar party, with awards going to the likes of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds team and F-22 Raptor, and the Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker'.
Introducing the ceremony was Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson, chairman of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. His Royal Highness Prince Feisal of Jordan presented the first of the evening's trophies, the King Hussein Memorial Sword, in memory of the late His Majesty King Hussein, patron of the International Air Tattoo from 1983-89. Awarded for the best overall flying demonstration, its recipient was Capitaine Jean-Guillaume 'Marty' Martinez, the French Air Force Dassault Rafale C solo display pilot from Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4 'Aquitaine' at Saint-Dizier. The judges called his "a faultless, flowing and dynamic flying display". His sequence last year won him the award for best solo jet demonstration. After his 2017 success, 'Marty' commented: "I'm really happy because it's a wonderful prize. It was difficult due to the weather, but I tried to do my best. We have a nice jet and I'm well-trained to do it."
Another winner for the second year running was Maj Dan 'Rock' Dickinson of the US Air Force's 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, for his Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor demonstration. He will this time take home the Paul Bowen Trophy, presented in memory of Royal International Air Tattoo co-founder Paul Bowen, for the best jet demonstration, presented on the night by Jon Windover, from Ocean Software. The judges said the Raptor's performance was a "consistently accurate, powerful and superbly executed solo jet demonstration". "This is just absolutely awesome", said 'Rock', "especially on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Air Force. Again, to be representing the United States Air Force and the F-22 Raptor, our team is just humbled and honoured to win such an outstanding award, and especially to see some of the past names that are on that trophy."
The Royal Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 display, in the hands of Flt Lt Ryan Lawton from No 29 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Coningsby, was this year's winner of the Steedman Display Sword. It is presented by the Royal International Air Tattoo in memory of the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Alasdair Steedman, chairman of the International Air Tattoo (1981-88), for the best flying demonstration by a UK participant. The sword was handed over by Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson. Ryan said: "I'm absolutely thrilled and honoured. It was a tough weekend at RIAT with the weather, but I'm really pleased to have been able to display on the Sunday and to win best UK participant. I couldn't do it without the team as well. They've worked really hard all weekend."
One of the smaller air arms to present aircraft at the show, the Slovenian Air Force, enjoyed a successful visit. Its solo Pilatus PC-9M multi-role turboprop display by 1st Lt Andrej Fiorelli - a RIAT award-winner two years ago - of the 152nd Fixed-Wing Squadron at Cerkjle ob Krki scooped for him the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for best individual flying display. He received it from RAFCTE Chairman Alan Smith. "It's a great, great, honour to win a prize again and to be a part of the biggest airshow so far for me", Fiorelli said. "I have no words - what can I say? It's unbelievable; the biggest award I can get as a pilot."
In the Czech Air Force Saab JAS 39C Gripen, Capt Ivo Kardoš from the 211th Tactical Squadron at Čáslav flew what was judged to be a "consistently well flown and accurate fast jet demonstration" to win the RAFCTE Trophy for the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant. RIAT Flying Control Committee Chairman Wg Cdr Jon Nixon handed him the award. "It was a wonderful, amazing airshow", reflected Kardoš. "It was the best one I've ever been to, and the best show in the world. Of course it's a great honour with the prize to represent the Gripen, and to represent Saab as well."
The As The Crow Flies trophy for the best overall flying demonstration as judged by members of the Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo was presented by RAFCTE Non-Exec Director Dr Jim Glover to Sukhoi Su-27P1M pilot Col Oleksander Oksanchenko of the 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade, Ukrainian Air Force, from Myrhorod air base. It was the first time a Ukrainian 'Flanker' had taken part in the RIAT flying display for 18 years. Speaking through an interpreter, Oksanchenko said: "Thank you very much for your hospitality, your partnership and to all the guys who organise the Royal International Air Tattoo. A very high standard is set, and we are very happy to be here. Everything is well organised. God bless your Queen!"
The Italian Air Force Panavia A-200A Tornado of the air arm's Reparto Sperimentale Volo flight test centre was awarded the prize for best livery, as also voted for by FRIAT members and presented by Tim Griffiths, from Jeppesen. In the words of the aircraft's weapons systems operator Col Paolo Fiorella, "We painted this aircraft for the 60th anniversary of our squadron. Winning this award here is a dream come true. A lot of magazines around the world are talking about us, and it's important so people know how the Reparto Sperimentale Volo works and what we do."
Finally, RAFCTE Chief Executive Andy Armstrong presented his own special RIAT CEO Award for an outstanding contribution to the show to the US Air Force Thunderbirds, whose F-16C and D Fighting Falcons deployed across the Atlantic especially to appear in the 2017 event's USAF 70th anniversary tribute. Thunderbird 7, Lt Col Kevin Walsh, the team's director of operations said: "It's a huge honour. With the field of other participants you have at this airshow, we couldn't be happier. There was a great team effort just to get the whole team overseas and in the air - to get us to put on a different demonstration out here we had to change our rules and change our display a little bit to fit the mould here. We thought we did well with it."