RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, UK 15-17th July 2022
Report by Peter Davison and Colin Coulthard
Well, what a scorcher! Record temperatures, record crowd and a mind-blowing selection of exhibits both static and flying. After two years off the calendar a memorable return of the World’s greatest military airshow. Given the global security situation the amazing gathering of aircraft from across the planet pays tribute to the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual support created by the team behind this inspirational event.
There were a number of long distance surprises, the two standouts in the static line were the Brazilian Air Force KC390 jet transport that sat beside a Japanese Kawasaki C-2, an indigenous T-tailed monster; both proving that the US is not the only nation to design and build significant transport aircraft.
As ever, the display teams are the public favourites. Britain’s Red Arrows had fierce competition from the South Korean Black Eagles, eight KAI T-50B jet trainers in a spectacular black and yellow livery. These two teams combined for a joint flypast on the Sunday.
Not to be outdone, the Italian Frecce Tricolori brought their operatic anthems as they painted red, white and green trails in their precision close formation. Turbo prop teams from Switzerland, the Silver Swallows from Ireland and Baby Blue, a team of SAAB supporters entertained from the Royal Danish Air Force. There was also a welcome return of the Jordanian Falcons with their bright red Extras.
Other flight demonstrations that caught the eye were a low level demonstration of Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) by the Austrian Air Force. Two Typhoons scrambled to intercept a rogue Hercules, an activity often undertaken at high altitude but brought to life by an informative commentary with sound effects. A great contribution to public understanding of this 24/7 mission; in keeping with the many STEM activities on site designed to inspire youth and educate the taxpayer.
Another foremost anniversary was the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the USAF. The opportunity to see a U-2 reconnaissance plane close up and the unprecedented arrival of one of Boeing’s E-4B command post jumbo jets heralded it’s first ever airshow appearance outside the USA. A specially painted F-15E graced the static line with it’s recent replacement, the F-35A Lightning II. An RAF example from RAF Marham demonstrated its hovering capability testing the quality of ear protection across the county. Another first for the UK was the appearance of the ‘new’ air-tanker, the KC-46A, developed from the successful Boeing 767.
Other newcomers to the static lines included a C-130J from the Royal Bahrain Air Force, an Omani Casa295MPA, a Typhoon from the Kuwaiti OCU and two Qatari Hawk trainers from 11 squadron presently training in North Yorkshire. Long term partners from Jordan also brought displays in their regular Hercules.
Almost all the European Air Arms were represented with special tributes paid to the former Soviet Republics, Of particular interest were the Lithuanian C-27 and Dauphin helicopter, the Estonian Skytruck and spirited coordinated flying from the Czech Mil helicopters.
Scandinavia was well represented with three SAAB fast jets from the Swedish Historic Flight partnering with a SAAB Gripen light fighter. Another Gripen was put through its paces by the Hungarian Air Force.
Not to be outdone by the American 747, the German Air Force brought one of the governmental A340s and Canada an A310 Polaris jet transport, unusual in these days in a high visibilty, almost airline colour scheme in this era of camouflage, Whilst referring to Airbus, a Saturday surprise was a flypast by an A330 Beluga wing transporter, another first for a RIAT event.
On a more serious note, tributes were paid to two Ukrainian display pilots, now departed, with a ‘missing’ space in the fighter line. Mention should also be made of Robert Pleming, prime mover on the Avro Vulcan, who died suddenly over a year ago; a great loss to UK Aviation Heritage.
All the UK agencies, training types, coast guard helicopters and the Empire Test Pilots School from nearby Boscombe Downe showed how thoroughly dependant our island nation is on aviation assets – where better to showcase world military aviation!