For many years the highlight of many an aviation photographer and enthusiast is the Royal International AirTattoo, held at RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire. This years theme was in celebration of the United States Air Forces 70th Anniversary. The static park had many of their current types on display including, the old work horse of the B-52H and the supersonic B-1B. A flypast to celebrate this anniversary was made up of USAF Europe types but with an extra bonus on the Sunday of the final bomber in the USAF inventory, a B-2A Spirit.
With over 110 aircraft on show in the nearly 2 miles worth of static there was a real mix of aircraft from almost every continent. Highlights of the static park included two Hellenic F-4E Phantom IIs, Japanese Air Self Defence Force KC767J, Royal Canadian Air Force CH-147F, which was transported over in a RCAF CC-177, Marineflieger Seaking, USAF U-2 and the Ukrainian Air Force SU-27 and IL-76.
The flying display was packed with many different countries participating and a wide variety of aircraft types. Again the USAF played a big part with the Thunderbirds demonstration team, returning 10 years after their last appearance, and for the second year in a row the F-22 Raptor. The big draw for many people was the late edition of the Ukrainian Air Force SU-27. This was an amazing aircraft to see on UK shores again, given the current climate, With RAMEX Delta (Mirage 2000Ns) having performed their final ever display at RIAT 2016, it was great to see the Armee de l'Air carrying on their tradition of front line pairs display being taken over by CONTEAU Delta with their Mirage 2000Ds. By far the most colourful scheme of the flying display was from the Aeronautica Militare Italiana A-200 Tornado. A stunning aircraft that is rare to see displayed at air shows.
During my four days at RAF Fairford I shot from various locations within the showground and also outside at Totterdown farm campsite. Sadly on the Saturday at Totterdown the weather in the morning was very poor with low cloud and rain. This meant that multiple aircraft weren't able to display but those that did ,when the cloud level increased, seemed closer than usual.
On the Sunday I had a media pass which allowed access to some of the aircraft on static display. Two that stood out were the RCAF CC-177 whose crew were extremely helpful and informative regarding their use of this aircraft and what it is like to fly. After that I was a chance that i didn't think would be possible, a personal tour of the B-52H. Walking up close to this aircraft was amazing and seeing inside the bomb bay and then inside the cockpit. Thank you to the crew of the B-52H and especially 'Skip' who discussed what it was like flying this old workhorse. Two facts that have stuck with me were, that when fully loaded with nuclear weapons it becomes the fifth most powerful nuclear state in the world and that the longest mission performed by some of the 96th Bomb Squadron was 44hrs. Its not exactly spacious in the crew area of the B-52H and the facilities are something to be desired!
Yet again RIAT proved that it is still the premier military air show in the world! Bring on 2018!!
Big thanks to Thierry and Marcus for their help with this article.