In near-perfect conditions, around 20 hours worth of flying shows were held for capacity crowds between Friday and Sunday. The Friday preview is a day of preparation with a short four-hour display, while Saturday’s and Sunday’s marathon displays lasted well beyond eight hours.
The Friday display is typically a simplified version of the entire weekend show. However, this year was very special. First, some outstanding static display highlights were set to appear before and after main flying displays. This added a special touch to Friday’s atmosphere. Secondly Friday’s flying display featured a number of displays not seen during the main weekend flying displays. The weekend featured a variety of displays that were not seen during the main weekend flying display. Red Arrows Different flypasts were performed with different aircraft. Friday saw the return of the Royal Air Force’s Maritime Patrol capability celebrated with a Boeing Poseidon MRA1 120 Squadron leads the scarlet Hawk T1s across clear blue sky.
After the Red Arrows show, there was a special flypast that featured two Extra 300LPs The Blades Aerobatic Team with 2Excel Aviation’s Boeing 727-2S2F Oil Spill Response Aircraft, which arrived for static display.
Friday is very much an ‘industry day’ and this was reflected in the flying display with the only appearance of the weekend by the Leonardo AW149 demonstrator. This helicopter can be used in conjunction with Airbus Helicopter He175M which was on static display are competitors to replace the Royal Air Force’s Puma helicopters in the not-too-distant future. The final of the unique displays to the Friday was Rolls Royce’s Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX Chris Hadlow flew the aircraft. The aircraft also flew much later in the day during RIAT’s Gala Dinner on the northside.
Royal Air Force was at the forefront when it came to flying demonstrations. This is the special flypasts by the Red Arrows continued into the weekend with Saturday seeing the team fly with the RAF’s VIP configured Airbus DS A330MRTT Voyager KC2 ‘Vespina’ while Sunday saw the team flying with the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight All three days were supported by their Supermarine Spitfire IX Hawker Hurricane IIc. Saturday’s displays featured the Avro Lancaster B1 With PA474, the crew performs their three-ship routine.
From the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 flown by Flt Lt Adam O’Hare and the Boeing Chinook HC6A Captained by Flt. Lt. Matthew Smythe. He was awarded the Steedman Display Sword, which is for best UK display. The RAF’s latest fighter also featured in the flying with a brief flypast and hover by a 207(R) Squadron Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning. From the Royal Navy, Lt Nick Smith flew the F-35. Nick Smith is the son and warbird pilot Brian Smith. He is also a pilot with Air Leasing, flying many different warbirds.
The Training theme was evident throughout the flight displays. There were displays of solo items as well as teams. The Royal Danish Air Force’s Baby Blue Display Team They made their Air Tattoo debut with the new routine of six ships. This is the Flying The SAAB T-17 Supporter They are used to train beginners. Their routine is a pleasant mix of formation and solo flypasts that culminates with an eye-catching waterfall break.
As solo exhibits with the Slovenian Air Force, more advanced training aircraft were displayed Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik Finnish Air Force BAE Systems Hawk Mk.51. The latter display was a new display for RIAT with Captain Eemeli Vähäsöyrinki performing a very elegant routine accentuated by the wing-mounted smoke generators.
The French Air and Space Force’s Mustang X-Ray Tactical Demonstration Team Made their UK debut with a pair Pilatus PC-21s from BA709 Cognac-Châteaubernard. A variety of missions can be performed by the PC-21, and the display showcased some of the combat profiles taught to the type.
Two national displays teams that participated in the later flying displays also featured Pilatus products. In 2022, Ireland marks its 100th anniversary. They have also restructured their display teams to commemorate the milestone. Silver Swallows Last time the team was at RIAT, 1997. They were flying Fouga Magisters in their last year. The team will be flying four FOGUG Magisters in 2022. Pilatus PC-9M A unique combination of solo and formation flying is used to train aircraft. Swiss Air Force was awarded the honor of concluding the weekend’s flying demonstrations. They presented an entertaining mixture of solo and formation aerobatics. Team PC-7 Their F/A-18C Hornet solo display. The PC-7 Team was reduced to eight pilots by parental leave, but they still displayed a polished display in the evening light.
A string of solo jet shows joined the Swiss Hornet. Further hornet action came from the Spanish Air Force’s EF-18M Hornet While the F-16 was represented in the magnificent F-16AM Fighting Falcon from the Belgian Air Force and the Hellenic Air Force’s Zeus Demo Team Flying later F-16C Fighting Falcon. The Swedish Air Force continued its support of RIAT through their SAAB JAS-339C Gripen solo display.
The Royal Jordanian Falcons They’ve been great supporters of RIAT for many years and any comeback show would not have been complete if they weren’t there. Although they often get overlooked, their show is worth the effort with many spectacular moves and cross-manoeuvres.
More colour and panache came from the Italian Air Force’s Il Frecce Tricolori. The 10 Aermacchi MB339PANs They are constantly a must-see display at RIAT, filling the skies of Cotswolds with their national colours. They headlined an impressive contingent of Italian Air Force displays with also displays from Reparto Sperimentale Volo’s Leonardo T-346A Master, Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoon And the Alenia C-27J Spartan. This Spartan display joined the list of Italian G222 and C-27J display winners, who won the Sir Douglas Bader trophy for the best solo display.
Despite obvious pressures caused by the war in Ukraine and the flying displays, Eastern European countries really supported RIAT. Two very distinct helicopter displays were sent by the Czech Air Force. The Czech Air Force sent two very different helicopter displays despite being a frequent participant on the European circuit over many years. Mil Mi-35 Hind Mi-171Sh Hip They made their RIAT debut in this year’s RIAT. This was the first time that a Mi-8/17/171 helicopter from the Mi-8/17/171 series had been displayed in RIAT’s formal flying displays. Incredible little RIAT debutant was also present. PZL W-3A Sokół Rescue helicopter. While billed as a search and rescue demonstration, the Sokół is quite the performer able to tight very tightly at some very unusual angles. As the helicopter made its circuit around the airport, the winchmen performed a remarkable feat by hanging from the entire length of the wire.
Since the Hungarian Air Force last flew in RIAT, it has been a while and it was great to see them return with two completely different displays. The Hungarian Air Force’s display was a great success. SAAB JAS-39C Gripen solo display picked the Paul Bowen award for best solo jet thanks to its dramatic routine which included the its trademark ‘dump and burn’ pass. But it was the Hungarian Mil Mi-24P Hind display flown by Lt Col Sándor Makaithat and Lt Col Attila Suszter really caught the eye with a very spirited routine which used pretty much all of the crowd line.
Another punchy helicopter display came from the German Army’s NH Industries NH90TTH. With its tanks attached, the crew showed the agility and power of the tactical transport helicopter. They also displayed tight turns and steep spiral descents. A complete display of rotary action was completed by a Bell/Boeing CV-22B Osprey From the 7Th Special Operations Squadron based RAF Mildenhall. Due to the departure of B-52 Flypasts, the USAF contributed no flying displays in the remaining 75.Th Anniversaries
Saturday’s display saw a very unique public display debut with some flypasts by an Airbus A330-743L BelugaXL Airbus Transport International. Airbus uses this latest outsize transport plane to move various parts of its aircraft from European factories to Toulouse, France. Anthony Flynn, Airbus Test Pilot, was in command of the giant transporter. He made some impressive passes and then took off into the clear blue sky.
RIAT’s recent weaknesses include the absence of large-scale role demonstrations. IAT and subsequently RIAT was once famous for the ‘Theatre of the Air’ concept which often saw fast jets, helicopters and transport aircraft demonstrating various types of military operations to the public. These demonstrations are now an integral part of European military airshows. This was evident at RIAT-2022 when the Austrian Air Force Quick Reaction Alert demonstrated one of these. Lockheed C-130K Hercules And a pair Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoons. C-130K acted as an aircraft that was not communicative in friendly aircraft airspace. A pair of Typhoons then scrambled with their Typhoons to locate and assist the aircraft. The C-130K was able to land the Typhoons. They then performed a number of dynamic, one-on-one combat maneuvers which completely captivated the audience. Another award-winner was this spectacular display, which earned the RAFCTE Trophy.
However, the enduring highlight of RIAT 2022’s flying displays was the highly anticipated return of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles Aerobatic team that first made their debut at RIAT 2012 This decade later, they are still as impressive as ever thanks to the amazing weather that allowed them to display their best. This is the KAI T-50B Golden Eagle Team pilot and lead-in fighter trainer, The team flies has a remarkable presence in the air and takes advantage of it with dramatic formation changes made mid-loop/mid-turn. While some of their display has some familiar formations and aerobatic figures, it is also highly original with some very creative elements – not least painting their nation symbol, the Taegeuk, in the skies over Fairford. The incredible performances in the air are only matched by the enthusiasm they display on the ground. Each time they flew, their support team and PR team made themselves at home in the FRIAT enclosure. They also met the public on the showground and enjoyed the entire event. It is little wonder then the team repeated its feat of 2012 winning both the King Hussein Memorial Sword and FRIAT’s As the Crow Flies awards for best overall flying demonstration at RIAT 2022.
I always knew I’d be writing just how good it was to be back at RIAT again, but RIAT 2022 was a very special and exceptional comeback for the team at RAFCTE. A herculean effort by the relatively new team at RAFCTE, superb support from the UK and international air arms, the series of very special arrivals during Friday’s preview day and enthralling flying displays held in stunning summer weather really did show what we have been missing in 2020 and 2021. Although there were many lessons learned and a lot of challenges ahead of RIAT/RAFCTE, I believe they can overcome these and be the centerpiece of any future UK or European airshow season.
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