Also in 2016 4Aviation travelled to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) op RAF Fairford again. Just like in 2014 there was an option this year to combine the visit to the show with the Flying Legends show at Duxford. The large number of interesting participants on the list of confirmations (F-35s, F-22s, Hellenic F-4s, etc.) led to a small column of five buses that headed for Calais (before crossing the Channel to Dover) on Friday 8 July.
Well in time the whole group of buses arrived at the familiar parking spot on Saturday 9 July. Well before the gates would open. Contrary to other years it took just a bit too long for everybody to get past the security checks. After this it was time to have a look at (and capture) the fine static display before looking for a good spot along the runway. The flying display programme was filled very well with a number of interesting displays. The day therefore went by very fast. On departure it was not certain if departure would be in time. The bus drivers had, as they always do, spent the day sleeping in a hotel. To get there they took one of the buses and at the hotel the bus had a flat tire. Eventually they managed to get back to the RIAT-terrain just in time after which all could board very quickly. Underway the double-decker bus took a different direction than the rest; heading for a visit to the Flying Legends show at Duxford on Sunday 10 July. The rest of the group continued travelling towards the Netherlands.
After a smooth journey also the 71 people that joined the 2-day tour arrived on time at RAF Fairford on Sunday 10 July. Time to get a nice English breakfast and enjoy the static show. The weather was undoubtedly English: low hanging overcast and occasional showers. The weather impacted the flying display as the first elements of the show were cancelled. A big hats off to the Patrouille Suisse for performing a taxi-display as an alternative: (“and now coming at you with a speed of 10 knots from left to right..”). Luckily the weather improved slowly and the flying display was started up again. An exhausted group quickly went to sleep after arrival in the hotel in Swindon at the end of the day.
No time to sleep in the following day as we planned to arrive at Fairford in time. After arrival we noticed a small cue already had formed and we joined them. The weather on Sunday was English, but today it was ultra-English: we were treated to overcast, strong winds and horizontal rain. When the fist aircraft started to depart, the weather slowly improved and we even got quite some sun this day! Almost all aircraft went home today, except for the F-35s. Luckily, one of the F-35s made a local flight and could be photographed as well.
Around 1600, after almost all aircraft had departed, we headed for the ferry. Despite a big delay around London we managed to get there in time and were able to drop off everyone at the different cities the following night and day.
Many highlights could be seen this year but the F-35B demonstration was much anticipated. While in the past the Harrier looked always a bit “wobbly” when hovering, the F-35B is completely stable while doing this, almost surreal. Very impressive! The F-22 display was also very nice. Other highlights were the last ever performance of Ramex Delta and the A400. This, combined with a rather exotic static display, containing a Japanese KC-767, an Australian KC-30 and a New Zealand B757, made this edition an excellent one!
Unless very unexpected things happen in the meantime 4Aviation will be travelling to RAF Fairford in 2017 again for the next visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo.