The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is well known to many of our readers, so there is no real need for a more detailed introduction to Europe's biggest annual airshow. RIAT 2014 was held over the weekend of the 11th to 13th of July 2014 at RAF Fairford. As usual, other celebrations were also taking place including the anniversary of the 50th display season of the famous RAF aerobatic team, the Red Arrows. To help commemorate this special event several other aerobatic teams were also in attendance including the Patrouille Suisse, the Patrouille de France, the Orlik Team from Poland, the Breitling Jet Team and last but not least the Frecce Tricolori of the Italian Air Force.
In total, some 240 aircraft were in attendance at RIAT, including the very rare participation (and very last appearance at an airshow) of an Hellenic Air Force Chance Vought A-7 Corsair II (unfortunately on static display only) while the incredible Polish Sukhoi Su-22M3 “Fitter” display team delivered a great performance that was definitely the highlight for fans of military fast jets. While not a very agile aircraft, the Polish pilots nevertheless managed to provide a stunning display of close formation flying (one aircraft with wings fully swept backward, the other with wings fully extended) and a series of fast crossover manoeuvres. Some of the other fast jet displays were definitely not as good as in previous years which was quite a disappointment, for example the Swiss Air Force Boeing F/A-18 Hornet display and even worse the flying display of the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. Both aircraft not only performed too high and too far away, but their entire program was not what many air show spectators had come to expect from seeing this extremely agile aircraft fly over the past many years.
The RIAT organisers did however manage yet again to bring a wide range of fast jets to Fairford, some of which have been seen only quite rarely at displays over the past few years. Apart from the aforementioned Su-22 performance another big surprise was a fantastic display of a Panavia A-200 Tornado and Aeritalia/Aermacchi A-11 of the Italian Air Force. Tornados were quite a common sight at many airshows up until 2010, however since the British Air Defence Variant (ADV) was replaced by the Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon, the Tornado Gr Mk 1's and Gr Mk 4's are no longer performing displays so they can now be seen on static display only, which is a big shame as the Tornado always was a great crowd pleaser.
Another highlight at RIAT was the Airbus A400M, which once again displayed its capabilities with a remarkable performance. The first A400M’s have already been handed over to the Armée de l'Air and the Turk Hava Kuevvetleri with another 14 aircraft to be delivered in 2014 to the Royal Air Force, while other customers include the Luftwaffe, the Turk Hava Kuevvetleri, and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Although much smaller and even more agile is the Alenia C-27J Spartan of the Italian Air Force. The loops and barrel rolls flown by this medium sized cargo aircraft are still an extremely impressive sight, even though its forerunner, the Aeritalia G-222, could also do this many years prior. Apart from the fast jet and cargo plane action at RIAT 2014 there were also a couple of outstanding helicopter displays including one from an Aerospatiale AS332M1 Super Puma of the Swiss Air Force and another from the very popular Boeing H.C2A Chinook of the Royal Air Force.
Conclusion: The RIAT organisers, the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises, once again were able to put on a great show despite some considerable difficulties. The main attraction, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II, which was highlighted on the RIAT website, posters and almost everywhere never actually eventuated, but nevertheless the Royal International Air Tattoo show still holds the leading position within the worldwide air show business.
Robert Kysela / CHK6
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