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RIAT 2008 - The Airshow that never was...
B-1B Lancer - 86-0103/DY - 7 Bomber Wing - United States Air Force   F-5E Tiger II - J-3086 - Patrouille Suisse - Swiss Air Force   NF-5A Freedom Fighter - 3042 - Turkish Stars - Turkish Air Force   Merlin HM1 - ZH846 - 829 Naval Air Squadron - Royal Navy - Fleet Air Arm
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B-52H Stratofortress - 60-0021 - 11 Bomber Squadron - United States Air Force

RIAT2008 "The Airshow That Never Was"

Words and photographs by Stuart Freer additional photography Mike Freer.

For most enthusiasts the highlight on the aviation calendar comes in July when the world’s largest military airshow arrives in town at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, so it was with much sadness that for the first time in the air shows 38 year history it had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. Following a week of unusually heavy rainfall, three of the four major car parks flooded as well as large parts of the showground and other public areas of the base.

Despite a huge effort by military personal and volunteers to improve the conditions, it became clear that significant parts of the airfield and surrounding areas were unusable. So a decision was taken following lengthy discussions between the organizers, police and other safety services to cancel the two day event. It was based on concerns for the safety of the 150,000 expected visitors.

The 2008 airshow was to feature three themes, the ‘90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force’, ‘Global Engagement’ and ‘Sky Tanker 08’.

The highlight of the show was the first appearance of the F-22A ‘Raptor’ from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia which had made the first trans-Atlantic flight for the new stealth jet to participate. The unit brought three aircraft on the Tuesday before the show, one of the pilots was Royal Air Force exchange officer Flt Lt Dan Robinson, who is the first overseas pilot assigned to an official Raptor unit. The only time the F-22 performed at Fairford was on the Friday, when pilot Major ‘Max’ Moga of the ‘Raptor East Coast Demonstration Team’ performed a practice for the flying control committee, the routine was totally breath-taking, showing the extreme agility of the worlds only operational fifth generation fighter aircraft.

RIAT has always seen large numbers of display teams included in the flying display but this year they excelled them selves, with ten teams from around the globe. The team you have to feel really sorry for were the Brazilian ‘Esquadrilha da Fumaca’ with their eight Tucanos from the Air Force Academy at Pirassununga Campo Fontenelle, who traveled more than thirty hours to get to RAF Fairford to fly one familiarization flight on the Thursday, before beginning their lengthy flight home on the Monday. Also making their RIAT debut were the Indian AF 'Sarang' helicoptor team flying five HAL Dhruvs. The team had been on a European tour arriving in the U.K at the beginning of June.

F-16AM Fighting Falcon - J-021 - 312 Squadron - Royal Netherlands Air Force
Typhoon F2 - ZJ919/DC - 11 Squadron - Royal Air Force
Mirage F1B - 518 - GC 01.030 (disbanded) - French Air Force   F-16AM Fighting Falcon - J-876 - 322 Squadron - Royal Netherlands Air Force   Sea King Mk 41 - 89+64 - Marinefliegergeschwader 5 - German Navy   Alpha Jet A - 15227 - Assas de Portugal - Portuguese Air Force
RF-4E Phantom II - 7487 - 348 MTA - Hellenic Air Force   CF-188A Hornet - 188703 - 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron - Canadian Armed Forces   F-16B Fighting Falcon - FB18 - 2 Wing - Belgian Defence - Air Component   AMX - MM7157/32-06 - 32° Stormo - Italian Air Force
P-3C Orion - 81 - 28 Squadron - Pakistan Navy

RAF 90th Anniversary

The Royal International Air Tattoo provided the backdrop for a prestigious, Royal Air Force ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen. Around 5,000 invited guests, representing current serving members of the Royal Air Force and it's various associations, were invited to the ceremony on the Friday, to watch the presentation of the new colours to both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force Regiment. The parade lasted approximately one and a half hours and finished with a fly past by ninety fixed and rotary winged aircraft to commemorate the services ninetieth anniversary. Amazingly while the Queen was there there was a lull in the weather for the flypast to take place, minutes after the flypast had finished and the Queen had departed the storm clouds rolled in again, hitting Fairford with the heaviest thunderstorm seem all week, drenching  the service personnel and the invited guests on the parade ground.

The flypast was led by the RAF’s support helicopter fleet consisting of a Chinook followed by a fourship of Pumas and Merlins. RAF Rescue was represented by a single Sea King from 22 Squadron. The Defense Helicopter Flying School from RAF Shawbury with two Squirrels and two Griffins completed the rotary section of the flypast. Representing the elementary flight training was a formation of two Tutors and two Fireflys.

The next segment of the flypast was led by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane from RAF Coningsby. Following this was the work-horse of the RAF a single Hercules which was in formation with two King Air’s and two Dominie’s respectively. The services training aspect was represented by nine Tucanos from RAF Linton-on-Ouse and seven Hawks from RAF Valley.

Behind this was a VC-10 Tanker with drogue hoses deployed and a Sentry AEW1 receiver. Also from RAF Waddington was a Sentinel with two HS125’s from 32(TR) Squadron, a single Nimrod & Tristar, which were both flanked by a pair of Hawks. This section of the flypast was closed by a 99 Squadron C-17A Globemaster III from nearby RAF Brize Norton.

The final segment of the flypast came from the RAF’s frontline; leading the way was a nine-ship of Typhoons followed by four Harriers. Next up was an impressive diamond nine of Tornado F3’s from RAF Leuchars. Not to be out done RAF Marham were equally as impressive with their very tight formation of nine Tornado GR4’s. Finishing of proceedings were the Red Arrows with their trade-mark Red, white and blue smoke, that made for a marvelous sight.

Sentry AEW1 - ZH101/01 - 8 Squadron - Royal Air Force
Tornado F3 - ZE936/HE - 111 Squadron - Royal Air Force   VC10 K3 - ZA148/G - 101 Squadron - Royal Air Force   Tristar C2A - ZE706 - 216 Squadron - Royal Air Force   Tornado GR4 - ZA469/029 - 12 Squadron - Royal Air Force
B-52H Stratofortress - 60-0045/BD - 93 Bomber Squadron - United States Air Force   F-16AM Fighting Falcon - J-642 - 311 Squadron - Royal Netherlands Air Force   Typhoon F2 - ZJ911/BZ - 29 (Reserve) Squadron - Royal Air Force   MiG-29B Fulcrum - 10 - 2 Vadászrepülö Repüloszázad - Hungarian Air Force
Hawk T1 - XX233 - The Red Arrows - Royal Air Force

RIAT2008 was to be the year of the special color-scheme with a number of air forces sending specially marked aircraft, which the organizers had positioned on the apron in the south-west corner of the airfield, which would have been perfect for the photographers.

The Hellenic Air Force sent an RF-4E from 348 Squadron, Larissa AFB in special marks for the 50th Anniversary of this legendary aircraft. Another aircraft that was suitably adored was a Mirage F1B from GC 01.030 at Colmar-Meyenheim, marked ‘Groupe Alsace-67 ans de chasse (67 years of operation), the unit is due to disband in 2008. Star of the static had to be a Pakistani Navy P-3C from 28 Squadron based at Mehran (Faisel) Pakistan Navel Station, this also carried a special scheme consisting of artwork on the tail and rear fuselage, portraying the presence of civilization on the shores of the Indus River for five thousand years. Mehran is located close to the river. An Aeronavale Nord 262 appeared in a black and white artic tiger scheme which had took part at the ‘Ocean Tiger’ meet at Landivisiau the previous month.

The organizing committee always try to ensure that there are a number of ‘first time’ participants each year and 2008 was to be no exception. A CASA 295 from the Brazilian Air Force designated a C-105A Amazonas in Brazil, which was on delivery from the Spanish manufacturer.

RIAT2008 would have been one of the better shows of recent times with a varied flying display and a large interesting static display, but I’m afraid it will be remembered for the airshow that never was. Your heart has to go out to the organizers and volunteers for all the months of planning and the visiting aircrews and there disappointment of not being able to display for the public.

The themes for the 2009 event are NATO 60th Anniversary and ‘Sea Search 09’.

One thing is for sure is that the Royal International Air Tattoo is still the biggest military airshow in the world and it will return, lets hope the sun is shining in Gloucestershire come next July.

The author wishes to thank the RIAT organisers for their hospitallity and facilities for the media during te arrival days.

Mirage F1B - 518 - GC 01.030 (disbanded) - French Air Force
T-27 Tucano - FAB-1307/2 - Esquadrilha da Fumaça - Brazilian Air Force   F-22A Raptor - 05-4101/FF - 94 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   Nord 262E - 51 - 28 Flottille - French Navy   C-130E Hercules - 73-0991 - 222 Filo - Turkish Air Force
Griffin HAR2 - ZJ703/♠ - 84 Squadron - Royal Air Force   BAC1-11 - 551 - 4 Squadron - Royal Air Force of Oman   C-130K Hercules - 8T-CB - Fliegerregiment 3 - Austrian Air Force   L-159T1 ALCA - 6067 - 212 Taktická Letka - Czech Air Force
Tornado GR4A - ZA400/011 - 14 Squadron - Royal Air Force
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