Zeroing in on Fairford? I already had the fuse in my hand … It is not so easy and obvious, in fact it could be a stupid mistake, like having the arrogance to know why, despite everything, this airshow involves all this public: does it disappoint or delight it?Both.I start from what drives me here every year at RIAT – I never missed an edition … -: here I can see many airplanes and many displays and exhibitions.
This is the reason that drives everyone here: but once here, everyone chases after the things that attract him the most.Because the public is made up of individuals.There are those who are here for high-level business, the chalets of the aeronautical companies are full of gentlemen and elegant ladies, with glasses of good wine in hand;the front row of the public is made up of hard-core photographers, also the FRIAT hosts 2000 indomitable enthusiasts with Canon and Nikon in their hands and super telezooms;taxyways have been transformed into market streets where you can buy books, T-shirts, prints, paintings, dvds, photos, posters, bomber jackets – I bought one for my nephew Andrea who was so crazy he didn’t want to take it off and here in Verona we had 30°C degrees.
The pavilions show the products of electronics, avionics, safety, flight simulators and the hostesses offer gadgets to all young people, who with their bright eyes of curiosity are involved in the use of new tools, transformed for a moment into modern games thatthey kidnap in another world: you see them relentlessly struggling with unusual experiments.Are you thirsty, hungry? Everything is there, maybe you have to queue, but you will be satisfied.Because everything is planned and organized, many volunteers of all ages help you and direct your requests with precision and competence.
Pilots and specialists in front of their Hercules, Phantoms, F-16’s, helicopters, chat with everyone, offer stickers to children, tell of their experience to adults.If you want to visit a cargo, a C-17, here is a row on your right, a little long at this time;Do you want a picture in the cockpit of the Turkish phantom with the sharmouth?Ready!At this time there is also the sun!Jack meets a specialist from the Pakistani Hercules and within a minute in a combat proto-English language gets a very rare patch in exchange for a pin.
So why yawn, why this feeling of boredom?I’m here to do a good photo shoot, for action shots that leave friends with their mouths open.The Tattoo promises fabulous performances, but does not maintain: there is much to redesign in the airshow.
The absolute defenders of security be silent for a moment!Forgive me a bit of school: a display consists of taxiing, take-off, exhibition, landing, taxiing … engine off.Once they take off, the planes go to perform … elsewhere;if you add that the sky is grey, oh… this annoying drizzle … but did you know that this is not Malta!
Your fun is reduced to just a few seconds, then you shoot to flies in the sky.There is a need for a good Jetwash, which sweeps away this way of performing, which needs to be redesigned, because if the main show is poor, the fiercest fans, the players of the tam-tam of the forest, the sounding board of the show go off first and then little by little the public too.
A small signal?This year the journalists present have fallen by three-quarters.There is a need to work hard on exhibitions and there is space for making it.We need to improve the statics: Fairford is a base for the B-52s, there is plenty of space.Why can’t the RIAT organization think about how to improve the layout of the statics?
It would be so easy to provide better backgrounds without Ferris wheel, carousels, advertisements, BAE SYSTEMS anywhere, anywhere!Still too many useless, useless blue cones, when you would like the photos to be a little more operational.Because when I pay 200 pounds for FRIAT, can’t I get some clean pictures?But maybe we are just an endangered minority?I do not think so.Gisela, a journalist who comes from Brazil, has the right to freeze a jet screaming low pass?He has it.But our “flying object” bends to the right, we are in England …, and we see alas the usual gray belly.
So what did we see in Fairford?
The 70th anniversary of NATO was celebrated: the flypast was a great disappointment in so many ways – planes that were too high, planes pulling out at the last minute due to technical problems, formations interspersed with distances so large as to seem separate events.
On Saturday the show was better but poor if compared to previous years and on Sunday the flying display worse than Saturday: not many people in the audience participate in all three days, also because the ticket costs more than 30 pounds (thank goodness,the kids don’t pay …) and people watch the program disappointed and think – I should have come yesterday, or I should have come tomorrow.
What saves the Tattoo is the foreign participation that can count on the presence of aircraft from all over the world, from Morocco, a universal constant in Fairford, up to Pakistan that does not fail to send every year a Hercules decorated always in new ways.What saves the Tattoo are the Park & View Area, especially the one to the west, where a substantial percentage of landed planes have been transiting for two years, once only 20%, now much more, 80% two years ago.
Here they are!
The oldest national flag in the world celebrated 800 years in 2019 in the Royal Danish Air Force: this year marks the anniversary of the victory of King Valdemar in the battle of Lindanise in 1219. Legend has it that 800 years ago the flag of “Dannebrog”fell from the sky;this year an F-16AM has been specially painted with the national flag covering the entire fuselage.
Begins to taxi a Boeing P-8A Poseidon of the U.S.Navy: it is a multi-role maritime patrol a/c, equipped with sensors and weapons systems for antisubmarine warfare, as well as surveillance and search and rescue missions and an APY-10 radar with high resolution mapping modes, a system ofacoustic sensors, which includes passive and multi-static pitfalls, EO / IR turret and electronic support measures (ESM). The Poseidon weapons system includes torpedoes to hit surface targets.By the following year the MRA.1 version will enter into service with the RAF, first with 120 Squadron and subsequently with the 201 Squadron in 2021, marking the rebirth of the long-range maritime patrol for the Royal Air Force.
Here are the Ukrainians: to take the Paul Bowen Trophy for the best solo jet show – in honor of the late Paul Bowen, co-founder of Air Tattoo – was Lieutenant Colonel Yurii Bulavka, with his performance in Sukhoi Su-27P1Mof the 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force.
The RIAT has offered Northrop Grumman to showcase its Firebird intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform: Firebird is offered in piloted, optionally piloted and unmanned configurations, with its robust landing gear making it suitable for runway operationslanding gear not prepared.Produced in Mojave, California, the sensor set can be exchanged in just 30 minutes, with the unmanned version the flight lasts 30 hours at 25,000 feet.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular visitors to the RIAT 2019 were the F-4E Phantoms of the Turkish Air Force: two 111 Filo / 1nci AJU aircraft from Eskisehir both with painted tails to commemorate the 60 years of the Phantom and the 70 of presence of theTU.AFin NATO alliance.This F-4 called ‘Terminator’ is an updated version of the F-4E Phantom II: about thirty of them remain in the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri.
A Hungarian Airbus A319-112, used for VIP / Govt., Is another rare aircraft seen on Monday of departures: strangely, the Hungarian air force did not perform at this year’s RIAT and therefore we can only assume that it arrived forto gather senior officials who participated in the show and to one of the conferences reserved for professionals.
The Swiss Air Force Challenger CL-604 Bomber is one of two recently acquired aircraft: the T-752 and its sister ship the T-751 will replace the Beech 1900D # T-729 of the Lufttransportdienst des Bundes (LTDB-Air Transport Service).
The Luftwaffe brought a ‘Tonka’ from TaktLwg.51 to Fairford, which was painted for this year’s Tiger Meet in Mont-de-Marsan.
From Kalamata came a Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, in a commemorative livery: the crew of the Hellenic Air Force of the 364 Mira ‘Team Daedalus’ gave a great show with this little two-seater trainer performing in the three days of display.
The Steedman Display Sword for the best performance by a UK participant went to the Red Arrows for Flypast with the British Airways Boeing 747-436 designed by British Overseas Airways Corporation as part of the BA100 events.Sqn Ldr Doug Smith commented: “This is absolutely fantastic. We love coming to the RIAT every year – it’s a tremendously well-run airshow – and coming away with the trophy for the best performance from the UK is amazing.”
The RIAT Chief Executive Trophy, offered by outgoing Air Tattoo CEO Andy Armstrong, went to the Spanish Navy’s EAV-8B Harrier II + duo.Armstrong mentioned how the Spaniards solved with great skill a fire started by one of the two aircraft on arrival;the repairs carried out allowed them to participate in the weekend performances.
As a regular performer at RIAT, the Swedish Air Force pilot Maj Peter Fallen of Wing 7 on a Saab JAS 39C Gripen won the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the best general flight demonstration.An excited Fallén thanked, saying: “This means so much to me. I am moved, almost in tears: at RIAT as a display driver I performed for 6 years; I am grateful for the recognition you gave me.”
The display of the Hornet F-18 of the Fighter Squadron 11 of the Finnish air force of the cap.Arto Ukskoski was exceptional and earned him the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for the best individual flight demonstration and the As The Crow Flies Trophy for the best performance awarded by the Friends of RIAT (FRIAT)
The Frecce Tricolori won the RAFCTE Trophy, awarded for the best flight demonstration of a foreign participant.The patrol leader Mag. Stefano Vit said: “It is really a great honor for me and for the whole team, because it is a special trophy. The Air Tattoo is the biggest air show in Europe and winning this trophy is a great reward”.The Italian air forces deserved more: they are here with the PAN, the Typhoon, the Tornado, the M346, one for attack, the C-27, the Hercules, at least 3 helicopters. I say’Thank you!’.No one else has done so much.
Text and photos: Gianluca Storti