Royal International Air Tattoo 2017

20th July 2017
I've always wanted to go to RIAT and this year I bit the bullet and went. It was an early start as the gates open at 7.30 am. There wasn't much delay in getting in (and I have to say not too much trouble in exiting later in the day which is nearly always a problem at big events).
With a while to go before the flying display there was the opportunity to look around some of the aircraft in the static display. Many others had the same idea. While the aircraft were interesting to get up close to (the Sukhoi Su-27 from the Ukrainian Air Force on its first visit in six years had a striking paint job), there were interesting pictures of people to be had.
Making my way to the left hand side of flight line ready for the flying display I met Paul and his wife from Coventry who were also on their first visit to the event. I stayed in the same location for the whole day save for a short time while I went to get some lunch. A full flying display lasting eight hours meant there's a lot to see. Positioned at the end of the runway meant good views of the aircraft just after take-off, closer and lower than during their main display. Of course, some displays were concentrated on the centre of the flight line but you can't be in all places at once, at least if you don't want to miss anything.
When I picked up my programme (well put together with plenty of information in it) we were told to be prepared for a surprise at around 2 pm. A short while before that time some sharp eyed spectators had already spotted it keeping station in the distance. When it arrived all it made were a couple of flypasts but good to see it all the same – the B-2 stealth bomber. It then returned to its US base.
It was the USAF's 70th anniversary, which explains the presence of the B-2, and a such there were plenty more of their aircraft both flying and static on display. The Thunderbirds aerobatic team put on a good display as did the F-22 Raptor fighter. Many other air forces from around the world were represented so it was a good opportunity to see aircraft that don't make an appearance at many UK airshows, most of which were flying.
Flying conditions were good and while grey skies were dominant there were sunny spells and the rain didn't make an appearance until around 5.30 pm. I haven't mentioned any of the ground events as I concentrated on the flying. The whole event takes place over three days and I'd say even taking all that time you'd struggle to look at everything fully. I'm satisfied that I made the most of the time I was there and enjoyed the day. There was plenty of room to sit down and watch and it wasn't cramped with people pushing past as you can get at other shows, though around the central viewing area was busier.
I'd certainly go again.

All text and images © Keith Rowley 2017

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