AEROBATIC display teams scooped two of the honours yesterday (Sunday) at the awards ceremony at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
It was only fitting that, after celebrating their 50th display season at the Air Tattoo, the RAF Red Arrows took the Steedman Display Sword, while their counterparts from the Italian Air Force, the Frecce Tricolori, took the Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy.
The traditional end to the event, the Sunday Night Hangar Party, was introduced by Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson, Chairman of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and President of RIAT, who opened proceedings by thanking everyone for their contributions to RIAT 2014. Sir Kevin thanked volunteers and participants for making the event possible, adding: “We salute and thank everyone for their part in what has been a great weekend.”
The top award, the King Hussein Memorial Sword - presented in memory of the late HM King Hussein of Jordan, Patron of the International Air Tattoo (1983-1989) for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration – went to WO1 Mick Kildea and Capt Neill Posthumus of 671 Sqn Army Air Corps, flying the Westland Lynx AH.7.The sword was presented by Commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, Major General Mansor Aljobour.
The Lynx crew had already departed, so the sword was accepted on their behalf by display pilot WO2 Bruce Allen, who flew the Apache AH1 at the event.
The Paul Bowen Trophy - presented in memory of the Royal International Air Tattoo co-founder Paul Bowen for the Best Solo Jet Demonstration – went to Royal Air Force Typhoon display pilot, Flt Lt Noel Rees of 29 Sqn. The trophy was presented by Tim Prince, Director of the Air Tattoo and Chief Executive of the RAFCTE and RIAT.
Flt Lt Rees said: “It’s an absolute honour to receive this on behalf of the whole team. They are the ones who got the jets ready this weekend and we displayed in sometimes challenging weather. It’s a fitting award for the whole team.”
The Sir Douglas Bader Trophy – presented for the Best Individual Flying Display – went to Commandant Aviateur Renaud ‘Grat’ Thys, flying the F-16AM from 350 Sqn Belgian Air Component. Alan Smith, Chairman of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises, presented the trophy to Comdt Avi Thys who said: “It’s great and a huge personal accomplishment for me. It really does mean a lot, and to receive a trophy in my last display season, and in the name of Sir Douglas Bader, is humbling.”
Gp Capt Geoff Brindle, who’s worked in many RIAT roles from Lightning display pilot to Flying Display Director, presented The Lockheed Martin Cannestra Trophy for the Best Flying Demonstration by an overseas participant.
The trophy went to the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force aerobatic display team who closed the airshow with a dramatic and colourful display. Maj Jan Slanger said: “It’s an honour and a pleasure, especially in the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows. We’re part of the same family of all the display teams representing the professionalism of our armed forces in the service of our nations and the international community.”
The Steedman Display Sword - presented by The Royal International Air Tattoo in memory of the late Air Chief Marshal Sir Alasdair Steedman, Chairman of the International Air Tattoo (1981-1988), for the Best Flying Demonstration by a UK participant – was awarded to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows.
Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson presented the sword to Sqn Ldr Jim Turner, who said: “Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows has been memorable, and I hope the Red Arrows will still be displaying after another 50 years.”
The As the Crow Flies Trophy, awarded for the best overall flying demonstration as voted for by the Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo, was presented by David Bywater, Non-Executive Director of the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises. The award went to Maj Bartlomiej Mejka and Capt Radoslaw Leszczyk of Polish Air Force 21st Air Base, flying the Sukhoi Su-22M ‘Fitter’ demonstration. Maj Mejka said: “This is very special for us. It has been an amazing weekend at the biggest airshow of all, and this is the first prize we have won!”
And finally, the Best Paint Scheme award, for the aircraft with the best special livery, went to the Hellenic Air Force A-7E Corsair II from 336 Olympos Sqn. The trophy was presented by Gardiner Porter, Government of Military Aviation Jeppesen.
Major Apostolos Papadopoulos said: “We were very glad to be here, to support RIAT and the Charitable Trust. This is the last time the A-7 will be presented outside Greece and that makes this award very special.”
The Royal International Air Tattoo is staged annually in support of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust which, in turn, awards grants in support of the RAF family, including serving personnel and Air Cadets. Since it was established in January 2005, the Trustees have awarded over £2.1 million to a wide range of projects and initiatives.