Royal International Air Tattoo 2015 Review

We then came to the amazing flying displays that make the Royal International Air Tattoo one of the best airshows in the world. I attended the show on all three days with the Friday flowing significantly smoother than last year despite not quite feeling like the Tattoo. The show featured a great variety of types including multiple UK debuts and three fantastic set pieces. This review focuses on the flying programme on the Saturday with additional details thrown in when relevant.

Opening the weekends flying programme was the Spanish Air Force’s national aerobatic team, the Patrulla Aguila who were making a welcome return since their last visit in 2011 where they couldn’t perform due to the weather. This year however had fantastic conditions and allowed the seven brightly coloured CASA C-101EB Aviojets to put on a great display including an impressive formation landing. This year also saw the team celebrating their 30th Anniversary since forming in 1985.

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Patrulla Aguila

Fast jet action was also featured in the show and was kicked off by regular attendees of the show, the Belgian Air Component with their Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon which was sporting a ‘blizzard’ scheme for the season and stood out fantastically during the dynamic routine.

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Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcon

Another welcome return came from the Finnish Air Force with their exceptionally loud McDonnell-Douglas F-18C Hornet which flew a brilliant performance, heavily incorporating its almost unique ability to fly at extreme angles. This display resulted in the pilot, Captain Ville Uggeldahl being presented with the Paul Bowen Trophy for the Best Solo Jet Demonstration.

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McDonnell-Douglas F-18C Hornet

Rotary elements weren’t going to be left out and began with the Army Air Corps’ pair of Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1 attack helicopters which put on a demonstration of their roles in the battlefield, complete with pyrotechnics which enhanced the display further.

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Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1s

The first of the three set pieces then got underway with the rapid take off of three Panavia Tornados which joined together to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment. The formation featured a GR.4 from the Royal Air Force which led a pair of IDSs from the German and Italian Air Forces where they flew three passes that depicted the different wing configurations of these swing-wing aircraft. Despite the sedateness of the display, it offered up a rare opportunity to see Tornados flying at UK airshows, especially the German and Italian examples.

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Panavia Tornado GR.4 & IDSs

One of the stars of the show then took to the skies. This was the unique shape of the Kawasaki P-1 of the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force making its first flying display debut at an airshow in Europe. The display consisted of two flypasts with one of the passes revealing the large weapons bay. This aircraft represented the first time an aircraft from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force has appeared in the UK and will hopefully further improve relations between the European and Japanese forces.

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Kawasaki P-1

The Battle of Britain was one of the major themes of the show and in relation to this we were treated to some solo displays by the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4, returning since debuting in 2010 and Rolls Royce’s Supermarine Spitfire PR. XIX. We would see more of both these warbirds later in the flying programme.

The French Air Force provided the second star of the show with the long-awaited UK debut of the Ramex Delta tactical demonstration team. The display features a pair of Dassault Mirage 2000N nuclear strike aircraft which out on a noisy and highly dynamic routine featuring formation passes and tactical manoeuvres. Saturday’s performance was truly phenomenal while Sunday’s was reduced to a solo display due to a fly-by-wire problem. I am honestly surprised that the team didn’t get presented an award at the end of the Tattoo.

Another UK first was the flying display debut of the United States Air Force’s Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor which put on short display which showed its great qualities that make this variant perfect for special operations.

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Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey

The Swiss Air Force also returned once again and put on a special formation with the Swiss PC-7 Display Team which led a Eurocopter AS532UL Cougar in a single flypast before the utility helicopter put on its own display. The team, consisting of nine Pilatus NCPC-7 Turbotrainers then returned for their own graceful display including a variety of formations and aerobatic manoeuvres which were made even better with the recent addition of smoke systems to the aircraft.

Germany provided a second aircraft for the flying display in the form of a Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo 105P from the German Army Aviation Corps which displayed a distant yet impressive aerobatic performance. The display resulted in the pilot, Captain Torsten Mobius being presented with the Sir Douglas Badar Trophy for the Best Individual Flying Display.

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Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo 105P

Along with the Swiss team we also saw a second turboprop trainer, a Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik from the Slovenian Air Force which put on a very well flown demonstration of its capabilities. The display resulted in the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Andrej Fiorell being presented with the Cannestra Trophy for the Best Flying Demonstration by an Overseas Participant.  

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Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik

A crowd favourite, the Boeing Chinook HC.4 then took to the skies for its usual display of seemingly impossible manoeuvrability and agility and is always a welcome addition to the air tattoo.

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Boeing Chinook HC.4

It was also great to see the Czech Air Force back at the show which first put on a spectacularly noisy display from their Aero L-159A ALCA multirole combat aircraft. It was highly appropriate for the Czech Republic to attend the show this year to the fact that several Czechoslovakian air crews flew during the Battle of Britain.

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Aero L-159A ALCA

We then arrived to the second set piece of the day which revolved around commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and began with the mass take off of seventeen warbirds. Whist the majority of aircraft departed to form up, we were treated to another display by the Messerschmitt Bf-109G-4 and an incredible solo performance by the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I which was making its first appearance at the show.

The groups of warbirds then made their approach across the airfield with a noise that was unforgettable. The first group was led by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s veteran Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA, the Historic Flight Foundation’s LF. IXE and the veteran Hawker Hurricane Mk. I. The second group consisted of a quartet of Hawker Hurricanes including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s pair of Mk. IICs, Peter Teichman’s Mk. IIB and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s Sea Hurricane Mk. X. More Spitfires featured in the third group including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s LF. VB and LF. XVIE alongside the Old Flying Machine Company’s LF. IXB. The forth group was a pairing of Spitfire Ltd.’s Supermarine Spitfire FR. XVIIIE and the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Hispano HA-1112-M1L Buchon. Bring up the end of the formation was a further three Spitfires with Rolls Royce’s PR. XIX, the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar’s HF. IXE and Kennet Aviation’s Seafire F. XVII. The Buchon and Spitfire FR. XVIIIE then performed a dogfight sequence which was flown in gaps between the main formations flypasts until all the aircraft landed which concluded this very special commemorative sequence. This spectacular performance led to all the pilots involved in this Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary Flypast being presented with the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration.

Next up was another one of the stars of show which was making its final appearance at the Air Tattoo due to 2015 being its last display season. This was of course the Avro Vulcan B.2 put on one of the best displays it has ever performed including a spectacularly noisy take-off and some impressive wingovers. This display resulted in the Vulcan To The Sky Trust being presented with the As The Crow Flies Trophy as voted for by the Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration.

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Avro Vulcan B.2

The Czech Air Force took centre stage once again with their Mil Mi-24V ‘Hind-E’ attack helicopter with put on a very good demonstration of its capabilities made more impressive by its ability to cover both ends of the crowd line quickly whilst trailing its orange smoke from its winglets.

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Mil Mi-24V ‘Hind-E’

Coming in next was another look at the Avro Vulcan B.2 which was being led by the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows in two fantastic formation flypasts before the Vulcan would land before the team’s nine BAe Hawk T.1As put on their usual world-class aerobatic performance. The team also provided the closing display for Friday’s airshow.

Another regular at the show then took off, the Airbus A400M Atlas from Airbus Military which flew a truly amazing display which demonstrated this large aircrafts seemingly impossible level of agility manoeuvrability.

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Airbus A400M Atlas

More aerobatics came in the form of the Royal Jordanian Falcons whose fourship of Extra EA-300Ls entertained the crowds with their usual energetic style as they have done for many years in the shows past.

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Royal Jordanian Falcons

The last international debut of the day was courtesy of the Hellenic Air Force who provide their strikingly schemed Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon which put on an impressive if distant performance with plenty of noise and afterburner as well as truly fantastic take-off on the Saturday. This aircraft was later presented with the Best Livery Award for having the Best Paint Scheme.

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Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon

Appropriately, Poland was represented in the flying display by a Mikoyan MiG-29A ‘Fulcrum’ from the Polish Air Force which had a special scheme on its tail depicting Polish pilots who flew during the Battle of Britain. The display was nothing short of amazing with an incredible take-off and even a tail slide manoeuvre in the clear skies on Sunday.

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Mikoyan MiG-29A ‘Fulcrum’

The next display came courtesy of the Royal Air Force and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with their joint “Synchro Pair” featuring a specially painted Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and a Supermarine Spitfire (the LF. XVIE on Friday and the Battle of Britain veteran Mk. IIA on the weekend) which put on a very dynamic routine with plenty of crossover manoeuvres and noise which also opened Friday’s flying programme. This display led to the Typhoon pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ben Westoby-Brooks being presented with the Steedman Display Sword for the Best Flying Demonstration by a UK Participant. The Spitfire pilot, Flight Lieutenant Anthony Parkinson MBE was unable to attend the award ceremony and was represented by Flight Lieutenant Nige Parker of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Royal Air Force remained the focus of attention with the debut appearance of the BAe Hawk T.2 in a UK airshow. A pair of these advanced jet trainers went through a series of formations and manoeuvres, demonstrating how these aircraft are used in training the next generation of pilots. The pyrotechnics that were thrown in further enhanced this demonstration.

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BAe Hawk T.2s

The last rotary display came courtesy of the aerobatic Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow from the Royal Netherlands Air Force which was unfortunately quite distant for the majority of its display though the loops and rolls were still impressive to watch.

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Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow

A second example of the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 took off for an energetic solo display and was painted with a special tail scheme to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of No. 29(R) Squadron.

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Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4

The weekend’s proceedings were bought to a close by the French Air Force’s national aerobatic team, the Patrouille de France who flew an exceptionally high-class display with their eight Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet Es and were a fitting finale to this year’s Air Tattoo.

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Patrouille de France

Overall the entire show was absolutely phenomenal with far too many highlights to list though the displays by the French Air Force’s Ramex Delta and the finale performance at Fairford of the Avro Vulcan B.2 were certainly some of the best of the whole season. It was also great to see so many debuts at the event including the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force’s Kawasaki P-1 and the United States Air Force’s Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey with special mention going to all the aircraft, past and present involved in the Battle of Britain commemorations. If the Royal International Air Tattoo certainly put on one of their best shows in recent years and I hope to see the same and more at next year’s show in 2016.

For more photos from this show check out both the Royal International Air Tattoo 2015 – Friday and Royal International Air Tattoo 2015 – Saturday albums on Flickr

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