Spanish Navy EAV-8B Harrier II
Royal International Air Tattoo 2019 Review
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford attracted around 170,000 people over three days, from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st July 2019. In total, 245 aircraft took part in the Air Tattoo, from 39 air arms, representing 25 nations.
This year, Saturday and Sunday each saw a full air display of around eight hours and the Friday was expected to have a shorter air display. As usual there was also the opportunity to watch and photograph the aircraft on arrival days and on Monday's departure day from the Park & View enclosures.
After last year's beautiful weather with blue skies and sun all weekend it was disappointing to see that rain was forecast for Friday and Saturday, and although Friday did see a great deal of rain which badly affected the flying display, Saturday and Sunday thankfully remained dry, allowing for a full air display on each day.
There is of course plenty of entertainment on the ground at the Air Tattoo with the 'Techno Zone', 'RAF Experience', 'Vintage Village', and 'Activity Zone'. There are three Service Stations in the Red, Blue and Green Zones which provide food & drink, toilets, cash points, free wi-fi, information points and official Air Tattoo merchandise. There are also plenty of stalls as well as a great many aircraft on static display.
This year's themes included 'Air & Space' and 'NATO 70th anniversary'. It was also the '75th anniversary of RAF Fairford' which was constructed in 1944, for British and American troop carriers and gliders, for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, which was celebrated last month. Click here for more information
To represent the 'Air & Space' theme there was a planetarium dome, an ExoMars Rover prototype, commercial space rockets and British astronaut Major Tim Peake who made an appearance at the airshow on Friday. This month is also the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, on July 20th 1969.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was founded 70 years ago on the 4th April 1949 and guarantees the freedom and security of its members through both political and military means. Since it was established in 1949, the alliance has grown from twelve to twenty nine members. Many of the aircraft at the show represented NATO and there was also a NATO Anniversary Flypast planned for Friday and Saturday.
This year, Saturday did seem to have more and better 'formation flypasts' with the 'NATO flypast', 'Red Arrows & Boeing 747 flypast', 'Red Arrows & Patrouille de France flypast', and 'Belgian F-16 flypasts', while Sunday had the 'A400M & Blades Aerobatic Team flypast'.
An F-35B Lightning II from RAF Marham also displayed on Saturday but not on Sunday. RAF Marham now has fifteen F-35B stealth aircraft after six more of these aircraft flew from MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina over the Atlantic to RAF Marham in Norfolk on 16th July 2019. These six aircraft belong to 207(OCU) Squadron which will train Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots to fly the F-35B. The other nine aircraft at RAF Marham belong to 617 Squadron which arrived last year. There are also a further three UK F-35B Lightning II aircraft (17 Squadron) at Edwards Air Force Base in California performing operational test and evaluation of these aircraft.
Display teams this year included the Patrouille de France
, Freece Tricolori
, Royal Jordanian Falcons
, Red Arrows
, as well as the Blades Aerobatic Team
, and the Breitling Jet Team
The Patrouille de France displayed on Saturday with their eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, and on Sunday the crowd did at least see them take-off and perform a single pass before departing. The Freece Tricolori displayed on both days with their ten Aermacchi AT-339A aircraft and won the RAFCTE Trophy, awarded to the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant.
The Red Arrows displayed in their nine BAe Hawk T1/T1As and won the Steedman Display Sword for best display by a UK participant. As well as displaying on both days they were also part of the special flypasts on Saturday with the British Overseas Airways Corporation-schemed Boeing 747-436 and the Patrouille de France flypast. This was the last UK display for the Red Arrows this year as they now prepare for their North American Tour (Western Hawk 19). As well as displaying at a range of shows and events across the USA and Canada, the team will also attend engagements promoting the UK Government's GREAT campaign, visit local schools, meet with business leaders and showcase the very best of British culture, which is expected to generate £2.5bn in direct foreign investment for the UK.
The Blades Aerobatic Display Team, who are based at Sywell Aerodrome, made their debut at RIAT this year. They fly four high-performance Extra EA-300 aircraft and the team consists of experienced former Red Arrow pilots and one national aerobatic champion, Gerald Cooper.
The Breitling Jet Team display with seven Aero L-39C Albatros aircraft and are the largest professional civilian team that perform with jet aircraft. The team are based in Dijon, France and the aircraft are superbly painted in a bold high impact black and grey livery with large white numbers on each aircraft.
Fighter jets in the air display included the USAF F-16 Viper Demonstration Team
, Belgian Air Component F-16AM
, F-35B Lightning II
, Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripen
, Swiss Air Force F/A-18C Hornet
, Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet
, RAF Typhoon FGR4
, Italian Air Force F-2000 Typhoon
, Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR
, Ukranian Air Force Su-27P1M Flanker
and two Spanish Navy EAV-8B Harrier IIs
The USAF F-16, using a Spangdahlem aircraft, put on a superb display on Saturday, but suffered a problem on Sunday, which cut short its display. On Sunday the F-16 took-off and began its display routine before gaining height and disappearing above the clouds. The commentator said there was a problem with the aircraft which was causing some vibration and that they were performing routine checks. The F-16 then made a low and slow pass so that there could be a visual inspection from the ground, before landing safely at RAF Fairford and you can see damage to the tailplane in the photos above.
On Saturday, there was a flypast of three Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcons before the display of a single Belgian Air Component F-16AM. The RAF Marham based F-35B Lightning II also displayed on Saturday.
The Swedish Air Force Gripen received the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the best overall flying demonstration. The pilot, Maj Peter Fallen said 'said, "This means so much to me. I'm almost in tears now, because RIAT has been a big part of my career as a display pilot. I've been flying here for six years, and it's been the main event every year. I'm so grateful."
The two F/A-18C Hornets put on excellent displays, with the Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet pilot, Capt Arto Ukskoski, deservedly winning two awards for an outstanding display. He won the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for best individual flying demonstration and and the As The Crow Flies Trophy for best display as judged by the enthusiast members of Friends of RIAT. Capt Arto Ukskoski said "I am quite surprised because there are so many good aircraft and so many good pilots. It's amazing, especially for the Finnish Air Force because we don't do so many airshows internationally every year."
We also had two Typhoons in the flying display with the RAF Typhoon FGR4 and the Italian Air Force F-2000 Typhoon. The RAF Typhoon, with Jim Peterson at the controls, seemed to perform a more aggressive display this year, which was good to see and both Typhoons showed how manoeuvrable these aircraft are.
One of the stars of the show has to be the Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR, which last displayed at the Air Tattoo in 2001, when it was held at RAF Cottesmore. The MiG-21 became the most-produced supersonic jet aircraft in aviation history and approximately 60 countries have flown this aircraft type. The Romanian Air Force received its first batch of MiG-21s in 1962, with further deliveries over the next couple of decades or so, totalling 322 aircraft. Today only 36 Romanian Air Force LanceRs are operational and they will all be replaced by F-16AM/BM fighters by 2020.
It was good to see the return of the Ukranian Air Force Su-27P1M Flanker this year. This large fighter never ceases to amaze with its graceful but powerful display and also its excellent manoeuvrability. The display pilot, Lt Col Yurii Bulavka, won the Paul Bowen Trophy for the best solo jet display and said "Thank you for your attention, wonderful Air Tattoo. See you next time!".
Another star of the show has to be the Spanish Navy EAV-8B Harrier IIs. On arrival to the show, one of the Spanish Harriers suffered a brake fire, resulting in a lot of smoke, however the Harrier was repaired and both aircraft took part in the air displays.
The Harrier was always a favourite display item at airshows with its noise and ability to hover and even bow to the crowd. The Harrier in Royal Air Force/Royal Navy service was retired in March 2011, due to budgetary pressures and the last RAF Harrier GR.9 to display at RIAT was in July 2010.
The RIAT Chief Executive Trophy, presented by outgoing Air Tattoo CEO Andy Armstrong, went to the Spanish Navy's EAV-8B Harrier II duo.
This was the last time that we would see the RAF Tucano T1
display at the Air Tattoo as this aircraft will be retired in October 2019 and is currently being replaced. The Prefect T1 will take over from the RAF Tutor T1
in the elementary flying training Role and the Texan T1 replaces the basic fast jet training role currently fulfilled by the Tucano T1. The Prefect T1 as well as the Texan T1 were both on static display at the Air Tattoo together with the Phenom 100 which replaces the King Air B200 in the multi-engine aircrew training role, and the Juno & Jupiter helicopters that replace the Squirrel & Griffin in the basic rotary wing training role & advanced rotary wing flying training role.
Also in the air display was the Italian Air Force T-346A
twin-engine trainer aircraft. The T-346 features a modern digital avionics system modelled on the latest generation of military aircraft such as the Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen, F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor. Primary users of this aircraft are the Italian Air Force, Israeli Air Force, Polish Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force.
The Hellenic Air Force displayed their T-6A Texan II
(Demo Team Daedalus) trainer aircraft. Team Daedalus was established in 2005 and consists of the main demonstration pilot, the Flight & Ground Safety Observing Officer who is responsible for safety and observing the rules for the display height and manoeuvres, the narrator officer who commentates to the audience, and the aircraft's preparation and support technical personnel.
We had two helicopters in the air display including the RAF Chinook
and the AAC Apache AH1
. The large, tandem rotor Chinook helicopter put on its usual excellent display showing how manoeuvrable this powerful helicopter can be, and the Apache used pyrotechnics to good effect in its role demo and display which ended with the helicopter hovering in front of a huge explosion of fire and smoke which made for a great photograph for those lucky enough to be positioned at crowd-centre.
The Royal Air Force has the largest Chinook fleet outside of the United States and the Chinook HC1 first entered service with the RAF in December 1980. Since then the RAF Chinook has seen extensive service in the Falklands War, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and RAF Chinooks are currently supporting French forces in Northern Mali in their fight against Islamist insurgents. The current RAF version of this helicopter has a digital glass cockpit and the Chinook HC6A is fitted with the Boeing Digital Automatic Flight Control System which greatly enhances handling and safety when operating in dust or snow conditions.
The Army Air Corps Apache AH1 attack helicopter, based on the AH-64D Apache Longbow, was first operated by the British Army in 2004 and are currently based at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk. They have seen service in Afghanistan and Libya. The Apache AH1 has been partially navalised and is operated from Royal Navy ships in addition to its land-based role. It was recently announced that some of the current Apache AH1 helicopters would be re-manufactured to AH-64E standard.
Transport aircraft in the air display included the Italian Air Force C-27J Spartan
and the Airbus A400M
The Italian C-27J Spartan put on a superb performance which involved rolling the aircraft, which was really impressive, for such a large aircraft. The C-27J Spartan is a twin-engine military transport aircraft produced by the Italian firm Leonardo. This particular aircraft was operated at the air show by the Reparto Sperimentale di Volo (flight test centre) and featured some incredible manoeuvres.
On Sunday, the A400M took-off and performed a flypast with the Blades Aerobatic Team before landing. It then started its solo display by performing an impressive take-off and then showing the excellent manoeuvrability of this large four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. This aircraft is called the A400M Atlas C1 in RAF service, where it entered operational service in 2014 at RAF Brize Norton.
It was really good to see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
(BBMF) at the Air Tattoo, especially the Lancaster which was accompanied by Spitfire Mk.IXe (MK356) and Hurricane Mk.IIc (PZ865). The BBMF are operated by the Royal Air Force and have been based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire since 1976. They currently operate six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, Lancaster, Dakota, and two Chipmunks.
A CV-22B Osprey
from RAF Mildenhall also took part in the flying display. This tiltrotor military aircraft is unusual in that it can take-off and land vertically like a helicopter or tilt its rotors forward and fly with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. The CV-22B variant is operated by the U.S. Air Force for the U.S. Special Operations Command while the MV-22B variant is for the U.S. Marine Corps and the CMV-22B variant is used by the U.S. Navy in the carrier onboard delivery (COD) role.
Notable aircraft on static display at the Air Tattoo were a pair of Turkish Air Force F-4E Phantoms
. There were also some interesting colour schemes with the German Air Force Eurofighter EF2000
winning the trophy for best livery. The EF2000 is operated by Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 'Richthofen' of the German Air Force, stationed at Wittmund.
The Royal International Air Tattoo is held in support of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust which has had a significant and positive impact on the lives of many people. The money raised is used to support Royal Air Force personnel, both regular and reservists, and also to encourage young people to develop an interest in aviation and aerospace.
Thanks to the organisers for putting on another superb air show, and the dates for next year's Royal International Air Tattoo are the 17th-19th July 2020
at RAF Fairford.
Article and photographs by Dave Key - www.military-airshows.co.uk