RIAT, Shuttleworth, Oshkosh, and news of other displays and events
Despite the efforts of the weather to put a damper on this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo held at RAF Fairford over three days 14-16 July, a record crowd of 160,000 people enjoyed exciting flying demonstrations, an extensive static display of over 115 aircraft and a wide variety of ground attractions. In total, 246 aircraft took part in the Air Tattoo from 32 air arms representing 26 nations, making it by far the most significant international military airshow this year.
Appropriately, as Fairford is a US forward operating base, one of the principal themes of RIAT 2017 was the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force. To support this, the USAF Thunderbirds team displayed its F-16 Fighting Falcons over the three days and were joined on the Friday by the Red Arrows for a colourful joint flypast to launch the airshow. Also specially flown over the Atlantic to appear at Fairford was the formidable F-22A Raptor flown as last year by Maj Daniel ‘Rock’ Dickinson. He paired with P-51D Mustang Frenesi, specially transported from Texas by owner Dan Friedkin for a ‘Heritage Flight’ routine on Sunday. Uk-based B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B and Peter Teichman’s P-51D Mustang Tall in the Saddle represented the formative US Army Air Force years. Flypasts by current USAF Europe types: a KC-135R Stratotanker, C-130J Hercules, three Eagles (two F-15CS and an F-15E) and two F-16C Fighting Falcons were well received as was the
short solo display by a CV-22B Osprey from RAF Mildenhall. On the final day a surprise flypast by a B-2A Spirit, one of a pair taking part in a 23-hour transatlantic ‘Global Power’ training mission from Whiteman AFB in Missouri, wowed the crowd. It was escorted by two F-15C Eagles for its two ‘topside’ passes.
Other highlights of the flying display can be judged from the list of awards made at the Sunday night hangar party. These included the Ukrainian AF Su-27 ‘Flanker’, French AF Rafale C, Slovenian AF Pilatus PC-9M, RAF Typhoon FGR4, Czech AF JAS 39C Gripen and Italian AF A-200A Tornado. There was some disappointment that the RAF BBMF did not receive an award for its 60th anniversary ‘Thompson Formation’ that included Hurricane LF363 and Spitfire PS915 that were with the Historic Aircraft Flight at Biggin Hill in 1957. Further acclaimed performers included the French Air Force’s Couteau Delta team flying two Mirage 2000Ds; incredible ‘aerobatic’ routines from the Italian AF C-27J Spartan and an Airbus Space and Defence-operated A400M. The UK Army Air Corps Attack Helicopter Display Team with its solo Apache display concluded its role demo with a spectacular ‘wall of fire’.
Among the 115 aircraft in the static park were a USAF U-2S spy-plane, B-1B Lancer and a B-52H Stratofortress. Newcomers to RIAT were a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail and a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-147F Chinook which had been airlifted from Canada in a Boeing CC-177 Globemaster. This was not the only big transport aircraft on show as the Ukrainian Il-76, Japanese KC-767 and a gaggle of Hercules were also present, with a colourful Pakistan AF C-130E and a very rare Israeli AF C-130J amongst them. Several jets made their last appearances at the show. The Gulf War ‘pink’ Tornado GR4 ZG750 was retired the following week and it is unlikely that the Greek F-4E Phantoms will make a return visit to Fairford.
The customary BAE Systems Heritage display presented BAC Strikemaster G-SOAF, Hurricane I R4118 and, making its public debut, Airco DH9 E8894. Close to making its first flight, the fully restored vintage bomber was brought to Fairford by road from Retrotec’s workshop in East Sussex and was taken to Duxford after the show for final work by its owners, the Historic Aircraft Collection. Summing up RIAT 2017, RAFCTE Chief Executive Andy Armstrong said: “Thanks to my team which includes an incredible army of over 2,000 volunteers, we staged a safe and thoroughly entertaining event that UK plc and the world of aviation can be proud of.”
The USAF Thunderbirds’ F-16C and D Fighting Falcons were joined by the Red Arrows for a joint flypast as RIAT celebrated the USAF’S 70th anniversary
Above and right: 1 FW, Langley AFB’S Major Dan ‘Rock’ Dickinson’s F-22A Raptor display was awarded the Paul Bowen Trophy for the best jet demonstration, and he paired with Dan Friedkin’s P-51D Mustang Frenesi for a USAF Heritage Flight routine
F-15C lends scale to the B-2A flying over Fairford Above: the first Ukrainian Sukhoi SU-27P ‘Flanker’ to fly at RIAT for eighteen years won the ‘As The Crow Flies’ trophy for best overall flying demonstration
Static debut for the Historic Aircraft Collection’s restored Airco DH9, soon to make its first flight
Above: loops, steep wing-overs and barrel rolls were all part of the Italian AF C-27J Spartan’s performance