A Romanian Air Force MiG-21 LanceR and two Spanish Navy Harriers were the highlights of this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo. Other than them, the Sunday show I attended was mediocre – a word I never imagined using in connection with an air tattoo. Support from international participants was thinner than usual: only one F-16 flew; only two Typhoons; only two military fast-jet display teams (Red Arrows and Frecce Tricolori). Where were the Belgians, Czechs and Turks this year?
The Blades and the Breitling Jet Team were invited to fill the gaps and, as good as they are, civilian display teams should not take centre-stage at a tattoo. In a desperate attempt to salvage the event, the organisers cobbled together a flypast of an A400 with The Blades. This was meant to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Airbus’s formation, but no representative of the European manufacturer was present to provide commentary and the only link between the A400 and The Blades’ Extra 300s seems to be that both types have propellers.
The social media team tried to pitch this year’s event as exciting and original, but it wasn’t. The informative commentary by Ben Dunnell and Mark Mainwaring helped lift my spirits a little, but I’m still left hoping that RIAT doesn’t end up suffering the same fate as Farnborough.
RIAT 2019 – my photos
Sunday’s show opened with a demonstration of an F-16 by Team Viper of the US Air Force but, within minutes, a section of its right elevator broke away. The pilot abandoned the display and climbed to 8000 feet to assess the situation. After a flypast to allow a visual inspection from the ground, he recovered safely. But for the professionalism of the pilot, the day could have been remembered for very different reasons.