CROWDS THRONGED to this weekend’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, with around 155,000 people attending over the two days.
Both days saw participants pulling out all the stops to entertain with some superb flying, one of the highlights being the multi-national flypast staged as part of the Air Tattoo’s Battle of Britain 70th anniversary commemorations. Spitfires, Hurricanes and a trio of Messerschmitts flying in formation provided a memorable and moving sight as former foes flew together, while the World War Two aircraft were followed by their modern counter-parts to bring the flypast right up to date.
The USAF F-22A Raptor was the aircraft every fan wanted to see, and they weren’t disappointed as pilot Major Dave ‘Zeke’ Skalicky put on an awe-inspiring display. Other high points included the rare sight of a Spitfire and Typhoon combination, and the first UK public appearance of the A400M, the RAF’s future airlifter. In total, 246 aircraft took part in the Air Tattoo, from 30 air arms representing 17 nations.
Saturday was the better day weather-wise, but overcast conditions on Sunday failed to dampen spirits, with the crowds enjoying a huge range of showground activities and events being brought to a close with a thrilling finale by the Red Arrows.
VIP guests included HRH Lieutenant General Prince Feisal bin Hussein of Jordan; Defence Minister Gerald Howarth; Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton; Chief of Staff USAF General Norton Schwartz; the head of the Iraqi Air Force Lt Gen Anwar Hamad Amin; plus a delegation of senior military personnel from China.
Special guests included Top Gear presenter James May, whose book-signing session proved hugely popular; Only Fools & Horses star Sir David Jason, Beatles producer Sir George Martin, Marks & Spencer Executive Chairman Sir Stuart Rose and BBC Foreign Correspondent Brian Hanrahan.
Organisers said the event was a great success. Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said: “We were delighted to welcome large crowds on both days, and I’m very proud of the Air Tattoo team for putting on another world-class event. The support we receive from the RAF, the USAF, sponsors, and air forces across the world is incredible and it is important that we recognise that fact. Without their help and support, there would be no Air Tattoo!”
Despite the large crowds there were relatively few incidents over the weekend.
Air Tattoo Senior Fire Officer Barry Scott said it had been a safe event with six minor incidents including two aircraft which suffered hydraulic problems, when his crews stood by but took no action, and a small grass fire caused by the Tornado role demo.
Senior Medical Officer Sara Hall added that 198 visitors had been treated for minor injuries, ranging from falls to blisters, with First Aid Posts handling three-quarters of the incidents, and 39 being treated at the Medical Centre.
First-time Air Tattoo visitor William Leigh, from Cottingham, East Yorkshire, said: “There’s been a fantastic assortment of aircraft. I thought there’d be a lot of waiting about but it’s been pretty much constant action: I’ll definitely come again.”
John Spencer from Swindon said: “We got to the show early on Sunday, and there were no queues, so it was very easy to get in, and the flying display was excellent. The Battle of Britain flypast was very good and the A400M very impressive: all in all, it’s been a great day.”
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 £1.5 million to a wide range of projects and initiatives.