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RIAT 2017 report

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: Education

from our Events Team

It was 09.00 hrs on Thursday 13th July when the Event Van and Trailer rolled out of Central Stores for the longest Airshow of 2017, The Royal International Air Tattoo. RIAT is said to be the world’s largest military Airshow and with this year being the 70th Anniversary of the formation of United States Air Force there was the promise of some big aeroplanes both on the ground and in the air.

Set-up of the Events Unit is getting better every time we do it and having cleared Security this event was no exception. Done and dusted by 17.00hrs which is a good thing when the team needed to be out of the hotel by 06.00hrs the following morning!

Having said that there was a slight delay when two of the Team got to go up in the cockpit of the B1-B Lancer. But more on that later!

Friday was bright but breezy, following some minor changes to the layout in the Unit and we were open for business at 07.30hrs.

Picture courtesy of Isabel Jackson

Our first Customers were two members of HM Constabulary Armed Response Team who entered our Free Prize Draw and from then on there was a brisk trade till the flying started after lunchtime. The Friday is always a quieter day both for sales and for flying displays ….. then the Apache arrived with pyrotechnics that actually shook the Event Unit. We left at 18.30 for a spot of supper and then bed.

Saturday was an early start again and once more we were ready to trade at 07.30hrs. The day being the first major day with over 70,000 spectators due within minutes of the gates opening, we knew it was going to be hectic -  and it was. What surprised us this year was that, with the exception of the Red Arrows display, there was hardly a time when there was nobody shopping, browsing, entering the Free Prize Draw or asking questions.

The flying displays on the Saturday were heavily curtailed at the start of the day and at other intervals due to very low cloud and drizzle. But that seemed to benefit us as more visitors braved the elements to shop. Our remaining umbrellas, previously sold as Sunshades at Yeovilton, soon disappeared as did the Ear Defenders. In fact everything was disappearing  which was good but at the same time slightly worrying as we did not have the option to restock from Doncaster.

By 19.30 it was time to close shop and yes the rest of the Team were invited into the Cockpit of the B1-B Lancer.

Picture courtesy of James Pritchard


Sunday brought sunny skies, and following our early start, we once again got a visit from a different Armed Response Team this time accompanied with a 10 minute talk on their weaponry …. Nobody can say it is boring being a volunteer! 

 The better weather got the displays off on time and from then on it was a case of fast and furious and very, very, noisy. Pyrotechnics rocked the Unit on more than one occasion, spirited displays by the USAF F-22 Raptor, the French Air Force Dassault Rafale C and Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 earned their respective pilots awards but the Ukranian Sukhoi Su-27P1M, not seen at RIAT for 18 years, made the air crackle, the display by pilot Col Oleksander Oksanchenko was the Team’s favourite and so it turned out:  he won The As The Crow Flies Trophy for the best overall flying demonstration judged by the Friends of RIAT.

Then a surprise ……..  not in the programme, a flypast of the B2 Spirit stealth bomber accompanied by two F-15’s. It is one weird looking aircraft but fascinating to see. With over 115 aircraft either on the ground or giving displays it is impossible to comment on all (the Editor would have a fit). But the flypast of the BBMF in their 60th Year was a sight worth seeing and a fitting tribute to the aviation heritage of the pre jet-age.

And so as the day drew to a close, the heavens opened …. good for trade though and with the sun making a late appearance, it was time for home. Twelve-hour trading days take their toll!


We can be proud of holding our heads up high and getting our message out there face -to-face with the public who still adore the Vulcan and are genuinely looking forward to the arrival of Canberra WK163.

Our thanks to Michael Trotter, Trustee Steve Liddle and Dr Robert Pleming for coming along to give us support and to help answer questions. Finally, thanks to the Volunteers who spent hours on their feet, selling not just merchandise, but also explaining the current and future activities of the Trust.

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