This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo had the operational theme of ‘Partnership’ which is in all honesty a rather vague theme which could technically encompass most aircraft at the tattoo but does represent what the show stands for, an opportunity for sharing ideas and building relationships whilst also demonstrating to an international audience the impressive aerial capabilities possible through cooperation. This year’s static display also boasted a huge improvement from last year with much more quality including some returning air arms absent from 2013.
The tattoo was commemorating several anniversaries including the 50th Anniversary of The Red Arrows which was celebrate with an exclusive ‘Pits Day’ on the Friday which allowed close access to The Red Arrows as well as the other national teams taking part in the show including the Patrouille de France, the Il Frecce Tricolori, the Patrouille Suisse and the Breitling Jet Team. There was also a static item that represented the history of the Red’s. This was The Gnat Display Team which provided a pair of their Folland Gnat T.1s with one in the original colour scheme of the Red Arrows whilst the other being resplendent in the colours of the Yellowjacks.
The show was also commemorating two other aviation anniversaries.
The first being the 40th Anniversary of the Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon which was celebrated with the appearance of several airframes of the type. The Belgian Air Component, Royal Danish Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force each sent a single example of the F-16AM whilst the Royal Netherlands Air Force sent a pair. The Danish and Norwegian Force’s also each sent a two-seater F-16BM variant to participate in the display.
The second anniversary was the 40th Anniversary of the BAe Hawk which unfortunately was lacking in number and variety with only four T.1As and one T.2 all from the Royal Air Force. This shortcoming did feature the first Hawk now in the colours of the Empire Test Pilots School and another from the RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine making a rare appearance.
Although not officially being celebrated at this year’s show, 2014 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules where a total of six aircraft of the type present in the static display as well as few others in support of other display items. There were four examples of C-130H variant from the Algerian Air Force, Belgian Air Component, Royal Jordanian Air Force and Royal Netherlands Air Force as well as a pair of ‘Super Hercules’ were also on display with a C-130J from the Royal Air Force of Oman and a C-130J-30 from the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The Royal Air Force were as usual big supporters of the show with a variety of types for the static display. Frontline fighters were represented by a pair of Eurofighter Typhoons and included both an FGR.4 and a T.3 variant alongside a single example of a ground attack aircraft, a Panavia Tornado GR.4. A total of five rotary types were also present in the static display and included two transport helicopters, an Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3A and a special schemed Westland Puma HC Mk. 2. The force’s two training helicopters were also on display in the form of a Bell 412EP Griffin HT.1 and a Eurocopter AS355BB Squirrel HT.1. Fixed wing training aircraft also had a big presence at the show with a Beechcraft B200GT King Air, a Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 and a pair of Grob G-103A Viking TX.1 gliders.
The Empire Test Pilots’ School also participated alongside their Hawks with another trio from their fleet, an Agusta-Westland AW109E Power Elite, an Avro RJ100 and a Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A.
The Royal Navy also provided a small contingent of the Fleet Air Arm types with a Beechcraft B350CER Avenger T.1 as well as a pair of helicopters in the form of an Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HM Mk. 2 and a Westland Lynx HMA.8DSP.
The Army Air Corps were also present with a Britten-Norman BN-2T-4S Defender T.3 and an aging rotary type, the Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1 alongside another example provided by Army Careers.
The Austrian Air Force provided a single SAAB 105ÖE training jet for the static display.
A total of five different aircraft were provided by Germany including a Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000S, a Panavia Tornado ECR and a soon to be retired Transall C-160D from the Germany Air Force. The German Navy provided a single aircraft in the form of a Lockheed P-3C Orion which wears a special scheme commemorating its squadron, MFG-3’s 50th Anniversary. The German Army also made an appearance with a Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm Bo 105P in a striking paint scheme.
The Hellenic Air Force provided the rarest static display participants with a pair of Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair IIs who were making their last appearance outside of Greece. There was a two-seater TA-7C example as well as an A-7E single-seater which bore a special scheme especially for their visit to the tattoo which resulted in this particular aircraft being awarded the Best Livery Trophy.
The Hungarian Air Force also made a return trip to the show with their frontline fighter, the SAAB JAS-39D Gripen and an Antonov An-26 ‘Curl’ transport aircraft.
Ireland returned yet again and provided one of their Pilatus PC-9M training and close air support aircraft from the Irish Air Corps.
It was also wonderful to see Japan returning to the Air Tattoo since its debut in 2012. They provided one of their four Boeing KC-767J tankers from the Japan Air Self Defence Force.
The Lithuanian Air Force also made a return after some year’s absence with one of their new Alenia C-27J Spartan transporters.
The Polish, Portuguese and Spanish Air Force’s all provided a variant of the EADS-CASA C-295 transport aircraft with Poland and Spain providing a C-295M each whilst Portugal returned with one of their C-295MPA Persuader maritime patrol aircraft.
The Royal Danish Air Force are regulars at the tattoo and once again provided one of their Bombardier CL-604 Challengers.
The Netherlands Coastguard were also present with another regular static participant, the Dornier Do-228-212.
With Spain making a welcome return, the Spanish Air Force also provided one of their frontline jets, the McDonnell-Douglas EF-18BM Hornet in a stunning tiger paint scheme for the static display.
The Swedish Air Force were also making a return with yet another regular attendee, the SAAB JAS-39C Gripen which is Sweden’s frontline jet.
The Swiss Air Force also returned with one of their key rotary types for the static park, the Eurocopter AS332M1 Super Puma.
This year also marked the return of the Americans to the show after last year’s sequestration. The United States Air Force was represented by two UK based aircraft, a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall and a McDonnell-Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath. The United States Navy also participated with the UK debut appearance of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon multimission maritime aircraft as part of a tour of airshows in the UK to promote the type to potential new customers.
There was also a host of classic types on static display including a selection jets from yesteryear. The Midair Squadron returned with the English Electric Canberra PR.9 which debuted last year alongside the Hawker Hunter T.7 making its first visit to the tattoo. The Classic Air Force’s De Havilland DH.115 Vampire T.55 was also present as well as a pair of BAC Jet Provosts featuring a T.3A from the Newcastle Jet Provost Group and a T.5 from Jet Aerobatics. Some other interesting types included the North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco from the Bronco Demo Team and a pair of Westland Gazelles from the Gazelle Squadron. Former Royal Air Force training aircraft were also featured with a De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk Mk. 22 from the Mike Oscar Group and a trio of Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1s from the PitBull Formation.
A small number of warbirds also participated in the static display including Carlo Ferrari’s stunning Beechcraft Model G18S and Tracey Curtis-Taylors Boeing-Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet. The Duxford based Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A from Plane Sailing also made an appearance as well as Peter Vacher’s Battle of Britain veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I.
Corporate types were well represented with the star being the Textron AirLand Scorpion from Textron making its debut appearance in the UK. The Beechcraft Corporation bought in a trio of their aircraft including a Beechcraft B350ER King Air and a pair of Beechcraft T-6 Texan IIs with an AT-6B and a T-6B variant on show. Grob Aircraft also provided a participant in the form of the Grob G-120TP turboprop trainer. There was also a rare visit by the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements’ BAe 146-301ARA and a rarely seen Piaggio R-166C from Italy that had recently been restored. Some vintage visitors were also featured in the form of a Spartan 7W Executive and a Waco UPF-7 which both hail from Little Gransden. There was also numerous other general aviation types including a pair of Rans S-6ES Coyote IIs from the Royal Aeronautical Society, Bruno Stocker’s Socata TB-20 Trinidad and Extra EA-400, a Cessna 172N Skyhawk, a Cessna F150L, a CFM Streak Shadow, an Evektor EV-97 Eurostar and Ikarus C42B FB80 Bravo from the RAF Halton Microlight Club, a P&M Aviation PulsR and a Piper PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior.
This year’s static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo is certainly a massive improvement from last year with many highlights including the gatherings of Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons and Lockheed C-130H Hercules as well as the return of aircraft used by the United States of American including the debut of the Boeing P-8A Poseidon. The major highlight was defiantly the Hellenic Air Force’s pair of Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair IIs and the return of the Boeing KC-767J from the Japan Air Self Defence Force. It was disappointing that more examples of the BAe Hawk couldn’t appear at the show to commemorate this anniversary. Another criticism of the static display was the lack of access to the static park and the limited time to access the ‘Pit Area’ on Friday. Hopefully even more exciting participants will be able to attend next year with more improvements to the Friday show.
You can also follow me on Twitter