RIAT, Flying Legends' formations, Yeovilton, and EAA winners
The 2019 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) on 20-22 July had seventy years of NATO and Air & Space as its major themes: planetarium shows and AAC officer-turned-astronaut Major Tim Peake being among the latter’s attractions. Back to its shortened Friday and full-length weekend flying display formats, RIAT featured 243 aircraft, was supported by 36 air arms and attracted 170,000 visitors.
Prolonged showers and extremely low cloud severely disrupted Friday’s flying activities. Saturday and Sunday, while mainly overcast, proved much more flyable. The sun shone on the event’s headlining ‘retro BOAC’ B747-400 G-BYGC (see ‘Old Timers’, Spring 2019) and RAF Red Arrows formation, celebrating British Airways’ centenary. The Red Arrows made another celebratory flypast, its nine Hawks leading the Patrouille de France’s eight Alpha Jets with both teams in ‘Concorde’ formation to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Anglo-french supersonic transport’s first flight. For its efforts, the RAFAT was awarded the Steedman Display Sword for the best display by a UK participant, as it had been in 2018. Other contenders in this field ranged from the RAF’S solo Chinook HC6, Tucano T1 (for the final time) and Typhoon FGR4, to The Blades, making their RIAT debut with their sharp four-extra formation and solo aerobatics, and linking up with A400M EC-400 for a Sunday flypast, marking fifty years of Airbus.
The Finnish AF’S mesmerising F/A-18C Hornet display was another repeat-winner, receiving the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy (for the best individual flying demonstration) as it did last year but also this time FRIAT’S As The Crow Flies Trophy: a double-victory
for Capt Arto Ukskoski. Other award recipients included the smooth Ukrainian AF SU-27P1M (best solo jet display), dynamic Swedish AF JAS 39C Gripen (best overall flying demonstration) and the Italian AF’S flamboyant Frecce Tricolori (best flying demonstration by an overseas participant).
The Spanish Navy’s EAV-8B+ Harrier IIS crew was awarded RIAT CEO Andy Armstrong’s Trophy, recognising the mechanical (one aircraft experiencing a brake fire post-arrival) and meteorological (a solo routine being managed in Friday’s appalling weather) challenges overcome ahead of well-received two-aircraft displays at the weekend.
The final award, for the best livery, went to the German AF’S stunning Eurofighter EF2000 30+25. Other special schemes were plentiful, producing a colourful NATO 70 static line-up. The most elaborate included ‘Tiger’-marked RAF Puma HC2 XW224 and German AF Tornado IDS 43+25 and the Royal Danish and Royal Norwegian AFS’ commemorative F-16AMS. The Belgian AF supplied three further eye-catching F-16s including its ‘Dark Falcon’ display aircraft whose joint flypasts, followed by Capt Stefan ‘Vador’ Darte’s solo sequence, gave Saturday’s programme a memorable start.
The first two days’ NATO flypast was less successful, being cancelled on Friday because of poor weather. The NATO E-3A Sentry provided a consolatory fly-through but went unserviceable on Saturday, leaving it to three RAF Typhoons and a single German AF EF2000, plus four F-16s (one each from original European programme partners/ operators Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway), joined by a very rare French AF KC-135R and three 48th FW F-15E Strike Eagles.
The typically comprehensive and diverse static display ranged from the French Army’s camouflaged SA330B Puma and SA342M Gazelle to the Qatari Emiri AF’S C-130J-30 Hercules and C-17A Globemaster. Other large participants included strikingly-decorated Jordanian and Pakistani Hercules, Ukrainian Il-76 and a rather weathered-looking USAF B-52H Stratofortress −part of a weighty USAF contribution. Substantial contingents of four or more aircraft came from the Dutch, German and Italian AFS. Civilian airframes of note include the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s AW189, Caravan II and S-92, Embraer’s debuting EMB-314 Super Tucano and Cranfield University’s smartly turned-out Bulldog and Jetstream.
For many enthusiasts, RIAT 2019’s star participants were two classic combat jets−a one-time NATO stalwart and its former adversary. Turkish AF F-4E Phantoms had last appeared in 2006: ‘NATO 70’ and ‘Phantom 60’-marked examples from 111 Filo at Eskisehir ended the wait. Eighteen years had elapsed since the last MIG-21 display in British skies. Now, as at RIAT 2001, it was provided by an upgraded Romanian AF Lancer C, whose iconic Cold War profile and afterburner ‘booms’ were unforgettable features of another great Air Tattoo.
'Best of British' flypast by 'retro BOAC' Boeing 747-400 G-BYBC and the Red Arrows
Finnish Hornet hauled skywards during its double-awardwinning display
LEFT: Hornet display pilot Capt Arto Ukskoski receiving the DB Trophy from Alan Smith
Turkish AF ‘NATO ’70’ F-4E Phantom heads back home after its welcome appearance
The elderly but still impressive MIG-21 was well presented
Cranfield University's Bulldog: a small but interesting participant
Qatar Amiri Flight C-17A - a smart stand-out from the usual all-grey heavy transports