With just under 4 weeks until the start of the Royal International Air Tattoo 2013 at RAF Fairford, the RIAT team held their annual media launch event on the 18th June. As part of this launch, 40 members of FRIAT were invited to attend and experience another side of the RIAT experience. Adam Duffield and Duncan Monk were amongst those lucky few.

The 2012 RIAT show has been hailed by many enthusiasts as possibly the best of recent years therefore this year’s event will not only be directly compared to it but expectations amongst some will be for it to improve even further. However, with the downturn in global economy hitting almost every country, it is already clear that it may well be an unrealistic target. The effects of sequestration in the United States means that one of the largest participants for the show will not be attending whilst cuts closer to home means that some of the usual RAF display acts such as the Tornado Role Demonstration have been cancelled for the 2013 season.

Despite this however, the line up for this year’s show already includes some interesting aircraft on both static display and in the air. The Estonian Air Force will be attending the show for the first time and participate in the flying display with an L-39C Albatross along with an AN-2 in static. Following their colourful static C-130 last year, the Columbians will return again this time with a Boeing KC-767 and South American neighbours Brazil will be bringing not only a KC-130H but also a rarely seen Embraer R-99 AEW&C to celebrate the SkyGuardian theme. A UK airshow first in the shape of a Finnish Army Aviation NH90 will also participate in the flying display with a second on static in addition to other rotary assets such as an Army Air Corps AW159 Wildcat and AH-64 Apache, Danish and Italian AugustaWestland Merlin’s along with a pair of German Navy helicopters in the form of a Westland Sea King Mk41 and Sea Lynx Mk88a.

The launch event itself is split into two groups with the gathered media forming one and the FRIAT members the other. After a short bus journey into the base the FRIAT members were gathered witihin one of the climate controlled B-2 hangars and treated to refreshments whilst the media representatives formed on the opposite side of the apron and awaited the first aircraft arrival.

With low cloud over the airfield, arriving aircraft were difficult to spot until on the ground and it wasn’t long before Sean Allerton arrived in a Piper Cherokee (G-BASJ). Sean served within the RAF as an RAF Regiment Gunner however in 1993 he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him a tetraplegic. In addition to raising money for charities that have supported him following the accident as part of his Push 500 challenge (www.push500.com) he was given a flying scholarship in 2011 by Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (http://www.fsfdp.org.uk) which forms part of the wider RIAT group of companies promoted at the show and celebrates its 30th year at this years event.

Following closely was the 2013 RAF Tucano Display team in the lovely looking desert camouflage scheme aircraft (ZF239) reflecting that worn by Spitfires operating in World War 2 as part of 72 Squadron. This year, the display is flown by Flight Lieutenant Andrew Fyvie-Rae, a Qualified Flight Instructor from 72(R) Squadron based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and both he and display manager Flt Lt Dave Kirby were present to answer questions.
Attending with an AugustaWestland A109 (ZE416), the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) are this year celebrating 70 years of flight test training. Based at MOD Boscombe Down and operated by QinetiQ, they will be providing 4 aircraft for this year’s show as part of their celebrations including the Advanced Stability Training and Research Aircraft (ASTRA) BAE Hawk T1 and Avro RJ100.

Also on show were two displays that represent the non-aviation related side of the show. Whilst the focus on this particular subject is often met with criticism from enthusiasts it is something well received by the general public offers something for those who may not be aviation minded. Performing numerous jumps and tricks throughout the morning, Blake Samson showed off his skills on a bike as part of the Animal WD-40 Action Sports Tour display whilst a Caterham represented the Caterham Thrill experience that will take place in the Adrenaline zone.

The highlight of the event however was the arrival of the RAF Typhoon T3 (ZJ808) along with a special rear seat passenger. Suzi Perry, well known for her presenting of various shows including MotoGP, The Gadget Show and, currently, the BBC F1 coverage, was treated to the trip of a lifetime in the back of an 11 Squadron jet flown by Officer Commanding 11 Squadron Wing Commander Rich Wells. Taking the opportunity to record the flight herself, she stepped from the jet and straight into interviews and photo opportunities for the gathered media. After a short wait, and with all aircraft on the ground, the FRIAT members were allowed to join them to take their own shots not only of the pilots but also the aircraft.

With the event rapidly drawing to a close there was just enough time to grab refreshments before heading back to the bus and our parked cars. Joining us on the bus on arrival was Tim Prince, Chief Executive of Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises and of the Royal International Air Tattoo. Taking his time to thank us for our support and attendance at the event, he highlighted the fact that the RIAT team are still working hard to secure display items and acknowledged the difficulties that they are having. A small treat was the announcement of the Italian Air Force KC-767 to the flying display along with teasers of some interesting and unique formations that will be announced in the future.

Although the event is not open to the public as such, being a FRIAT member gives you the opportunity to attend RIAT events like this and provides a valuable insight into just some of the work that goes on behind the scenes as well as hear the latest directly from the people involved.
If you want to win one of two pairs of tickets to the Sunday display at RIAT then don’t forget to enter our competition that is currently running until 30th June. To be in with a chance of winning just enter one photo within the Operational SkyGuardian theme. Full details are available here.