A SELL-OUT crowd of 140,000 turned up at RAF Fairford over three days to join celebrations marking the Red Arrows’ 50th display season at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
They were rewarded with breath-taking aerobatic displays from fast jets, transport aircraft, helicopters and classic warbirds. The aviation fans’ favourite was the rare appearance of two classic Cold War ground-attack strike aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-22s from Poland, while the visitors were also treated to the last UK appearance of the A-7 Corsair from the Hellenic Air Force.
Seven aerobatic display teams flew in to join the Red Arrows’ celebrations thrilling the crowds with their precision flying. On Friday (July 11), team leaders from the Patrouille de France, Frecce Tricolori, Patrouille Suisse and the Breitling Jet Team performed a special anniversary formation flypast with the Red Arrows.
Red One, Squadron Leader Jim Turner, said: “We love all the European display teams and are most grateful to all those that have helped us celebrate this weekend.”
In total 240 aircraft from 31 air arms representing 25 countries took part in the Air Tattoo.
Senior military guests included: Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford and US Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh III; plus air chiefs from 48 other countries including Turkey, Singapore, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Japan and Montenegro.
Industry guests at the Air Tattoo included Mrs Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin; Mr Hakan Buskhe, President of Saab Global and Mr Simon Laffin, Chairman of the Flybe Group. Celebrities Alan Carr, Robson Green, Carol Vorderman, Adam Henson, Sir David Jason and Bruce Dickinson also attended the three-day show.
Royalty was also represented at the airshow with HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Michael of Kent and HRH Prince Feisal of Jordan enjoying the airshow.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince, who retires immediately after the airshow, said: “It’s great that such a bumper crowd was able to enjoy what we had to offer over the three days. The weather was good, the flying was fantastic and once again the Red Arrows lived up to their star billing. My thanks go to all those who visited the airshow, the many aircrew who participated and everyone who contributed to the successful staging of this event. Under my successor Andy Armstrong, I am confident the Air Tattoo will continue to be a wonderful celebration of international aviation and an event of which UK plc can be rightly proud.”
The Air Tattoo medical teams reported no major incidents and a relatively quiet time for those on duty. Senior Medical Officer Sqn Ldr Darren Ellison said: “We dealt with 250 patients with no major problems, just a range of minor illnesses from heat-related issues to blisters and abrasions.”
Senior Fire Officer Barry Scott said: “We’ve enjoyed a very quiet show. The main excitement was being on stand-by for the Apache role demo when we thought the pyrotechnics might set the grass on fire, but we weren’t needed, and that’s the way we like it.”
First-time visitors to the show were a Colony of Beaver Scouts from 1st Purton & Lydiard Scout group. Parent Emma Hudson-Ellis, from Swindon, said: “We’ve been here since 7.30am and have had a fantastic day. The flying displays are absolutely brilliant, especially the Red Arrows, who we always love to see, and we’ve still got quite a lot to see on the ground before we go home.”
Mark Smeaton from Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, had brought his family on their first visit to the Air Tattoo. He said: “The quality of the flying is just amazing, especially the formation displays. The whole show seems very well organised, and everything’s covered. Our five-year-old was more than slightly traumatised by the noise of the Eurofighter, but two members of the Air Tattoo CREW instantly leapt to our rescue, supplying earplugs and generally saving the day. We were impressed, and we’d definitely come again!”
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 £2.1 million to a wide range of projects and initiatives.