After the disappointment of last year's cancelled Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), due to the unusual level of rainfall in the week preceding the event which resulted in the car parks and airfield being waterlogged, it was good to see the air show going ahead without any problems this year.
Some cars, this year, were allowed to park on hard-standing, on the actual base, which meant it wasn't so far to walk back to the car and it was better than being bogged down in a field, but traffic management this year was not so good with some getting caught in long queues for some time on the way out. This year was also the first year that RIAT made this a ticket only event. Saturday saw the better weather but despite the rain on Sunday the organisers managed to keep the air display flowing without any gaps. This year there was a sell-out crowd with 160,000 people attending to see the 269 aircraft that took part from 33 Air Arms, representing 22 nations.
Themes, this year, included 'Sea Search '09' and 'NATO 60th Anniversary'. The Royal Navy assembled a large Balbo of their helicopters, including examples of their Merlin HM1s, Lynx, Sea King, Squirrel, and fixed-wing aircraft, including Harrier GR7/9, Jetstream T2s, Black Seahawks, as well as 'The Black Cats' team, the RNHF Chipmunk, and Sea Vixen FAW2 which only took part in the Balbo flypast.
RN Sea King HU5
RN Sea King HC4
Even though there were no U.S. fighters in the display, what other public air display in the UK this year can boast a French Rafale, Spanish EF-18A Hornet, Swedish JAS39C Gripen, Dutch F-16AM Falcon in its new colour scheme, Swiss F/A-18C Hornet, Hungarian JAS39C Gripen complete with 'dump & burn', Finnish F-18C Hornet and an RAF Typhoon.
Display Teams this year included the excellent Italian Freece Tricolori, Red Arrows, Swiss PC-7 Team, Royal Jordanian Falcons, Breitling Team, AAC Blue Eagles, RN Black Cats, and Team Guinot wingwalking team which consisted of three Boeing Stearman aircraft and three girls braving the wind and rain on the Sunday.
Apart from the French Rafale, one of the main stars of the show, which many had come to see, was the Vulcan B2 which was parked on the base ready for its display. On Sunday, the Vulcan powered along the wet runway with its distinctive whine and took-off, banking hard over to the right, before putting on its display. Once back on the ground it was joined by the American B-52H Stratofortress, which earlier had performed several flypasts, and they both taxied along the runway together.
Other displays included a flypast of the RAF C-17A Globemaster III (Sunday), RAF Hawk T1A, impressive display of the RAF Chinook HC2, also good display of the Italian C-27J Spartan, RAF King Air 200, RNZAF Boeing 757-2K2, and French SOCATA TBM700. Saturday also saw a BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4. Unfortunately, the BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire, and Hurricane had to cancel on Sunday due to the weather.
The static park included many RAF aircraft, French Mirage F1, and Alpha jet, German Eurofighter, and Tornado, Greek Phantom, Hungarian Gripen, NATO E-3A Sentry, Norwegian F-16A, Swedish Gripen, and 16 USAF aircraft, such as, the B-52H, B-1B Lancer which was sadly missed from the flying display, C-17A Globemaster III which was pulled from the display, various examples of the C-130, and MC-130 Hercules, KC-10A, KC-135R, T-1A Jayhawk, and T-43A. Civilian aircraft on the static included a Delta Jets T7B, BAE Systems Mantis, and a Northdrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk. Sadly, there was no Rafale on the static park.
Every year, eight awards are presented to the best displays, at the end of the air show. The top award, the King Hussein Memorial Sword, for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration, went to the Fleet Air Arm, for the sheer weight of effort and professionalism put in to their Balbo by the Merlins, the Black Cats, the FRA Falcons and Black Sea Hawks. The Paul Bowen Trophy, for the best jet demonstration, went to Capt Thomas 'Pipo' Peier flying the F-18 Hornet of Fliegerstaffel 18, Swiss Air Force. The Sir Douglas Bader Trophy, for the Best Individual Flying Display, went to Capt Cedric Ruet flying the Dassault Rafale of Escadron de Chasse 1/7, French Air Force. The Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy, for the Best Flying Demonstration by an overseas participant, went to Maj Mohammad Quol, leader of the Royal Jordanian Falcons. The Steedman Display Sword, for the Best Flying Demonstration by a UK participant, went to Sqn Ldr Scott Loughran, flying the Typhoon of 29 Sqn, RAF. Three other awards, not judged by the Flying Control Committee, were also made: The FRIAT Award (the As the Crow Flies Trophy), went to Capt Cedric Ruet, flying the Dassault Rafale of Escadron de Chasse 1/7, French Air Force. The Best Livery award went to Lt Daniel Jordao and crew of 2/10 Aviation Group, Brazilian Air Force with their Casa C295M. The award for the Best Flying Helmet went to Maj Brian 'Bubba' Zoll, C-130H of the 317th Airlift Group, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.