Royal International Air Tattoo
|Royal International Air Tattoo|
|Activity||Aerobatic and static displays|
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is the world's largest military air show, held annually over the third weekend in July, usually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England in support of The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. The show typically attracts a total of 150,000 to 160,000 spectators over the weekend.
The first Air Tattoo was staged at North Weald Airfield in Essex in 1971, with just over 100 aircraft taking part. The event was founded by Paul Bowen, and Timothy Prince, who were CAA Air Traffic Controllers, and Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling. From 1973 to 1983 it was held intermittently at RAF Greenham Common, initially under the title of the Royal Air Forces Association, South Eastern Area, Air Tattoo before moving to RAF Fairford in 1985. The show became the International Air Tattoo in 1976, and recognition of its unique status was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996, when the current Royal International Air Tattoo title was adopted.
- The show took place at Fairford every two years until it became an annual show from 1993. Due to redevelopment work at RAF Fairford the show was held at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland in 2000 and 2001.
- Guinness World Records have recognised RIAT 2003 as the world's largest ever military airshow, with 535 aircraft in attendance.
- In 2014 224 aircraft from 32 air arms were on display.
The event has had a number of air show firsts, including the first display and landing of the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber outside the United States of America during the 1997 "50 Years of the USAF" event and in 2008 the first landing of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor in Europe.
The show is a showcase for the world's military, and has become an important precursor to the Farnborough Airshow, which takes place a week after RIAT, every 'even' year. It allows the military aerospace industry to display and present its products outside the commercial pressures of the Farnborough show.
The 2008 airshow was to feature two themes, the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force and Global Engagement and was scheduled to be held on 12–13 July. The United States Air Force Air Combat Command's F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team had made the first trans-Atlantic flight for the new stealth aircraft to participate in the show. On 11 July, the day before the air show opened to the public, Queen Elizabeth II presented, in poor weather conditions, new colours to the RAF and RAF Regiment in front of selected guests and VIPs. Following a week of heavy rainfall this made the already waterlogged car parks and parts of the airfield unusable. Safety concerns for the hundreds of thousands of expected visitors led the organisers to a last minute cancellation of the public section of RIAT for the first time in the show's history.
RIAT 2009 was held on 18–19 July 2009. The show celebrated the 60th anniversary of NATO by charting its history in chronological order. The show all featured a Search and Rescue display to recognise the significance of missions undertaken by the aircraft and people that undertake these jobs. The show reportedly saw over 160,000 spectators.
RIAT 2010 was held on 17–18 July 2010. The themes for the show were the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Training Aircraft and the 150th anniversary of Cadets. 9 members of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and 3 members of the New Zealand Air Training Corps were invited to the event for the first time, as part of the IACE exchange. The F-22 Raptor also appeared in its first RIAT flying display since 2008's cancelled show. Notable visitors to the 2010 show included James May and David Jason.
RIAT 2011 was held on 16–17 July 2011. This Air Tattoo looked back over the past four decades as it celebrated the show's 40th anniversary with a series of special aerial displays and ground entertainment. It also hosted a gathering of specially-decorated "Tiger" aircraft from the NATO Tiger Association. Tiger aircraft came from NATO squadrons that have a Tiger or Big Cat in their emblem and their association marked its 50th anniversary in 2011. RIAT 2011 saw a smaller crowd than usual of 138,000 attend the show. The Pilot of the Solo Türk Team, Murat Keleş was honoured at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2011 with the highest award, the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration.
RIAT 2012 was held on 7–8 July 2012. It saw the debut of the Black Eagles aerobatic team from South Korea and Japan became the 54th nation to participate in the tattoo with the arrival of one of its four Boeing KC-767Js operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, which brought the JASDF Taiko Drummers to the show.
RIAT 2013 took place on 20–21 July 2013. Invitations of participation were distributed to over 70 countries. The programme featured an Airbus A400M Atlas and one of the first deliveries of the Airbus A380 to British Airways, both of which flew in formation with the Red Arrows over the show weekend.
RIAT 2014 took place from 11–13 July 2014; the first time in its history that the show has been open to the public on a Friday. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was to make its anticipated European debut but was grounded in the U. S. due to an engine failure before it could cross the Atlantic. Highlights of 2014's show included a pair of Polish Air Force Sukhoi SU-22 Fitters along with celebrations for the 50th display season of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team.
Accidents and incidents
In 1993 two MiG-29s of the Russian Air Force collided in mid-air and crashed away from the public. No one was hurt. After ejecting, the two pilots landed safely. Investigators later determined that pilot error was the cause, after one pilot did a reverse loop and disappeared into the clouds, the other one lost sight of his wingman and aborted the routine.
In 2002 a G-222 of the Italian Air Force made a hard landing after demonstrating a steep descent approach, also known as the "Sarajevo approach", developed for the airbridge for supplying Sarajevo during its blockade in the Bosnian War. After initial touch down the aircraft bounced up and came back heavily on the nose wheel, which then collapsed. Emergency services were soon at the scene as the crew strolled from the stricken aircraft.
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