Royal International Air Tattoo 2011
Arrivals Days 14th/15th July
It’s 4am on Thursday morning, and I’m packing the car ready for the 120 mile drive down to Gloucestershire for the 2011 Royal International Air Tattoo. Its mid summer in the UK, and its not long before the sun is rising into a beautiful clear sky, and this along with some great tunes playing it’s not too long before I’m meeting up with Mr Flory. Phil had left around the same time (but in the total opposite direction) but fortunately we arrived at our meeting point within five minutes of each other. After a quick coffee and a chat, we headed on over to the airfield.
Being a Thursday, this is one of the arrivals days. For those that have not been before, the organizers provide area’s either end of the runway for enthusiasts to watch aircraft arriving and departing the show. Most displaying aircraft will also do a couple of practice displays to get their bearings and note down land marks that will assist them during the routine. Tickets for the Park & View can be bought in advance for each day, being around £30 for both days instead of the £40 odd pounds for one of the show days. The arrivals run from Wednesday through to Friday, with the following Monday being departures day. Even though we've arrived at 6am, there are already over a hundred people waiting for the gates to be opened. An early arrival is essential if you want a good vantage spot. The gates finally open at 07:30, and after a frantic walk to gain a spot, we settle down for the first of the arrivals.
After a couple of arriving heavies from the US Air Force, BAe’s test pilot puts the Typhoon through its paces. The Royal Air Force had no Typhoon’s in the flying display this year, so Bae jumped in and saved the day by bringing one of their test aircraft. As you can see from the images below, they were keen to show off its weapons load.
ZJ700 Typhoon F2 - BAe Warton
The RAF's Tucano scheme for this years display aircraft was a move away from the usual black, to this striking silver.
ZF378 Tucano T1 Royal Air Force - 1 FTS Linton-on-Ouse
The RAF's Hawk display is this year flown by Flight Lieutenant Juliette (Jules) Fleming.
XX244 Hawk T.1 Royal Air Force - 4 FTS Valley
41(R) Squadrons Tornado GR.4 was a welcome visitor. This scheme has been worn by both a Jaguar and a Harrier.
ZA600 EB-G Tornado GR.4 Royal Air Force - 41(R) Sqn Coningsby
Now the Mirage 2000 displays have ended, the French Air Force have switched to the Rafale and bought over two superbly painted Rafales celebrating 30,000 flight hours.
327/113-IZ Rafale B French Air Force - EC01.007 Saint Dizier
The awesome A-10 Thunderbolt made a welcome return to Fairford this year. The aircraft from Spangdahlem air base Germany was superbly flown by Captain Joe 'Rifle' Shetterly, display pilot for the West Coast Demo Team.
82-0649/SP/y A-10C Thunderbolt United States Air Force Europe - 81st FS, 52nd FW Spangdahlem Germany
Another welcome returnee, and also included in the flight display was the Turkish Air Force with one of the best colour schemes seen on a F-16 for many a year. The colour scheme celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the Turkish Air Force. Both aircraft (a back up in regular grey) were supported by the Turkish Stars coloured C-130 Hercules.
91-0011 F-16C Turkish Air Force - 134 Filo Konya - Turkish Stars Squadron
And check out the 'Bling' FOD covers!!
89-0022 F-16C Turkish Air Force - 141 Filo Akinci
One of the themes for this years Tattoo was the 50th Anniversary of the Nato Tiger Meet. The Austrian Air Force were present with two of their Saab J105OE's, one of which was in this striking tiger scheme.
RF-26 Saab 105OE Austrian Air Force - Dusentrainerstaffel
BC-33 Saab 105OE Austrian Air Force - Dusentrainerstaffel
Another country renowned for producing colourful tiger schemes is Belgium. Not only did they send us this stunning Tiger scheme, but also their equally stunning blue display aircraft. It was also good to see several SF260's displaying.
FA-87 F-16AM Belgian Air Force - 10 Wing Kleine Brogel
FA-110 F-16AM Belgian Air Force - 10 Wing Kleine Brogel
ST-23 SF260M Marchetti - Belgian Air Force - Beavechain
The colourful theme continued with the arrival of this Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM, celebrating the Air Force's 60th year.
E-194 F-16AM Royal Danish Air Force - Esk 730 Skrydstrup
It's always great to see a twin seat F-16, personally i prefer these over the single seat versions.
ET-199 F-16BM Royal Danish Air Force - Esk 730 Skrydstrup
The Italian were out if force at this years show, displaying the Tornado, along side the Frecce Tricolori, and the unbelievable C-27J Spartan. To see a aircraft of this type rolling and looping was something else.
CSX7047 RS-05 Tornado ECR Italian Air Force - 311 Gruppo RS Pratica di Mare
CSX62219 RS-50 C-27J Spartan Italian Air Force - 311 Gruppo RS Pratica di Mare
MM54505 MB.339A Italian Air Force - Udine-Rivolto
Spain were due to bring a pair of Mirage F.1's but sadly they cancelled at the last minute, leaving only the Spanish Air Force display team Patrulla Aguila representing Spain.
E.25-87 79-29 Casa C.101EB Spanish Air Force - Ala 79 San Javier
The arriving helicopters did their best to cause havoc in the viewing area. Trying to hold a camera still whilst one leg is keeping you chair from departing is quite a feat!
ZJ124 H Merlin HC3 Royal Air Force - 28/78 Sqn Benson
XZ184 Lynx AH.7 Army Air Corps - 9 Rgt Dishforth
ZH895 HJ Chinook HC2A Royal Air Force - Odiham
ZJ232 Apache AH.1 Army Air Corps - 3/4 Rgt Wattisham
H38 A109.BA Hirundo Belgian Air Force - Wing Heli Bierset
4059 GBF SA.342M Gazelle French Army - 1RHC Phalsbourg-Bourscheld
Other visitors that are not around on the show days are the support aircraft for the smaller jets. Some will stay and become part of the static display but most depart and return once the show has finished.
10+24 Airbus A310 MRTT German Air Force - 1 Staffel Koln-Bonn
CE-02 ERJ 135LR Belgian Air Force - 15 Wing Brussels Melsbroek
T.21-09 35-47 Casa 295M Spanish Air Force - Ala 35 Getafe
EC-295 Casa C295 AEW
I can't remember seeing so may vintage jets at Fairford as there were this year. At one point we were treated to no less than six Hunters in the air together.
XH558/G-VLCN Vulcan B2
J-4206/HB-RVV Hunter T.68
WM167/G-LOSM Meteor NF.11
ZZ190 Hunter F.58
WA591/G-BWMF Meteor T.7
126922/G-RADR A-1D Skyraider
WK436/G-VENM Venom FB.50
SE-DXS K-PX Vampire FB.6
LN-DHZ M-PX Vampire T.55
The highlight of the show for many was the arrival of the Ukranian Air Force SU-27 Flanker accompanied by a Ilyushin IL-76. Sadly for me the clouds rolled in as the Flanker landed, five minutes later and the light would have been perfect.
75 Blue Sukhoi SU-27UB Ukranian Air Force
78820 Ilyushin IL-76MD Ukrainian Air Force - Melitopol
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the Saudi Hawk display team as they were rather well hidden and didn't take to the air on either day.
If you've not been to any of the arrivals days, i thoroughly recommend it. Not only do you save yourself money, there's no traffic getting in and out, your up and close to the aircraft, and by far the best thing is.....the USAF put on a BBQ!!
All in all, a great couple of days. Yes, the number of aircraft was down, but given the financial strife many countries are in at the moment, and the on going conflicts around the world, any airshow is a good one. The weather was also kinder this year. The torrential rain stayed away for once, and you could actually wear shorts!! in the British summer!.
Thanks to Phil for a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days.
Marcus and Phil