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High Flying: The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford

PUBLISHED: 01:58 28 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:25 20 February 2013

High Flying: The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford

High Flying: The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford

The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford will be one of the shining jewels in the Diamond Jubilee crown. For aerial celebrations marking the Queen's 60-year reign will form the centrepiece of a thrilling eight-hour flying programme...

High Flying: The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford

Katie Jarvis goes behind the scenes of the worlds largest military air show

The Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford will be one of the shining jewels in the Diamond Jubilee crown. For aerial celebrations marking the Queens 60-year reign will form the centrepiece of a thrilling eight-hour flying programme, featuring the fastest, the finest and the most fearless displays anywhere in the world.

RIAT, as its known, is the worlds largest military air show, which will see more than 150,000 visitors during its weekend run of July 7-8 one of the reasons why its won a gold star as event of the year in the 2012 Cotswolds Tourism Awards.

Katie Jarvis spoke to three people behind the scenes at this years tattoo.

Group Captain (retired) Geoff Brindle is director of the flying programme; a RIAT volunteer, his job is to put together a workable, exciting series of displays.

Its contrast that makes a programme exciting: a light aeroplane doing a knife-fight in a telephone box in other words, little aerobatics in the sky followed by a huge aeroplane covering vast tracts; the smooth continuity of a team getting airborne singly, before joining up to become almost a single entity in the sky; and then, just when everybody is used to fixed-wing aeroplanes, there jumps into the air a demented palm-tree fastened to a 10-tonne truck ie a helicopter!

Were laying on an amazing days entertainment this year. The Royal Air Force are planning to perform their official EIIR Diamond Jubilee formation, featuring more than 20 RAF Hawk jets, as was seen over Windsor Castle on May 19 as part of the Armed Forces official tribute. It should be stunning!

We are very lucky in the UK: the British public still have a romantic attraction to flying. Its partly because we quickly got into the flying game: one of the early races was between the French and the English as to who could cross the Channel faster and - darn it it was a Frenchman! We then went into aircraft development, and a lot of the leading technology was developed in the UK. So our fascination is partly national pride, partly the awe of aircraft, and partly that our own experience of flying is so removed when you fly to the Costa Brava, you walk down a long tube, into another tube, sit down, theres a roaring noise, and the next thing is youre airborne. So an air show is a chance to see how it really works: this magnificent machine, looking like a horizontal block of flats, that suddenly becomes lighter than air, climbing away very steeply. Its a great thrill.

Flt Lt Phil Bird, an RAF solo Hawk display pilot, lives in Fairford but is based at RAF Valley in Wales. After a summer of display flying, hell be serving in Afghanistan.

Its really quite strange. When I arrive at the air show, Ill be travelling just under the speed of sound at just over 600mph, 100 feet of the ground treetop height, really. For the people who are watching from the ground, the experience is hugely dynamic, noisy and exciting. But inside the cockpit, its calm, quiet and precise. Theres an awful lot of adrenaline pumping through, but the flying is calculated and absolutely safe.

My day job is as a fast-jet instructor on the Hawk, teaching the tactical weapons course, which is the very end of training for a pilot before he goes to the front line. But from June until October, Ill be flying displays 78 of them in 56 locations, seven of which are foreign. Being a display pilot is professionally awesome because you get to push the jet to its absolute limits - and in front of the public, which is a real privilege. For a short period of time, youre the public face of the RAF and, if you really believe in the RAF as I do its great to bring in all the positive PR that you can.

Ive lived in Fairford from the age of one, so the opportunity to display at home is really special. The whole family, plus the dog, will be there to watch! My dad is an RAF pilot but, in terms of the fast-jet flying, it was the air tattoo that first inspired me to do what I do. Hopefully, I might inspire some youngsters myself this summer.

Phil and his team are aiming to raise 10,000 for the RAF Benevolent Fund with this years displays. For more information, visit:

Caroline Rogers works as commercial director of the air tattoo.

When we started the air tattoo more than 40 years ago, we had a couple of companies that used to give a bit of money to support air-crew activities. Were now at the point where just over half our income comes from corporate support. These companies love what we do: from the length of our air display, to the aircrews and sheer variety of aircraft which come to us from all around the world. Our heritage lies in providing a celebration of aviation. So for these companies, here is an opportunity in a very social environment to meet the people who use the kit they are making, to share experiences and to develop ideas. And there really is this extraordinary family atmosphere. Lockheed Martin and the Marshall Group from Cambridge, for example, were the first aerospace sponsors we ever had, and theyre still going strong with us; and, of course, BAE Systems, our title sponsor, with whom we have signed another five-year contract.

We even get competing companies working with each other on some of the sponsors activities, such as EADS, a big European, and Northrop Grumman, a US company, which come together at our gala dinner. They are happy to be seen as part of one big aviation community. Trade shows tend to be much more formal, whereas, here, it really is a case of friendships being forged and different nationalities meeting up. This year, for example, we have Hyundai providing us with vehicles. Theyre involved because weve got the South Koreans attending with their aerobatic team for the first time ever.

Its not all aerospace industry. Breitling, the watch-maker, is one of our big supporters; and we forge relationships with local companies, too. Weve had a partnership with McArthurGlen in Swindon for the last three years, and we work closely with Williams Kitchen at Calcot, who provide a huge amount of catering for us.

The cost of staging the air show has grown enormously. If it was reliant on ticket sales, entry prices would be prohibitive. If we didnt have this corporate funding, we just couldnt hold the tattoo. â– 

For ticket details, visit www.airtattoo.comor call 0800 107 1940. All under-16s enter free.


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