Royal International Air Tattoo 2002

The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in England is billed as the world's biggest airshow.   It's truly international, with display teams from Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Chile and Jordan, as well as individual displays from the air forces of Belgium, Holland and Germany.   My biggest disappointment was not seeing the Ukrainian air force Tu-22 Backfire bomber and Su-27 fighter jet, which had to withdraw at the last minute, presumably for financial reasons.   A week later, a Ukrainian Su-27 crashed into the crowd at an airshow, killing 83 people in the worst ever airshow accident, surpassing the 70 people killed when an Italian display team jet crashed into the crowd at an airshow in Ramstein, Germany.   RIAT 2002 itself is the first airshow I've attended where there's been an accident - an Italian G222 cargo plane suffered a collapsed nosewheel after a botched landing, and skidded several hundred meters down the runway.   The tire on the nosewheel caught fire, smoke poured out, fire engines and rescue personnel rushed out, but it was really a minor incident - except that it closed the runway for most of the first day.   It was a memorable end to what had been the most memorable aerobatic display by a cargo plane that I've ever seen.

RIAT is mostly a showcase for modern aircraft and military display teams, but they do also have some historic aircraft on show.   Ironically, I got better shots of the Avro Lancaster and Bristol Blenheim than I did at the Duxford Airshow the previous weekend, even though the weather at Duxford was better.   Other world war two aircraft on the British side which were on display were a Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, and for the Americans the B-17 Flying Fortress "Sally B", together with a P-51D Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt.

A lot of people expected this show to be less impressive than previous years because of changed American policies after the September 11, 2002, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.   However, these concerns were unjustified and there was a good turnout of modern military aircraft.   Along with American aircraft like the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, there were also a pair of Mirage F1 fighters and German and British Tornado fighters and fighter/bombers.

This year was dedicated to the Bomber Crews, so as well as world war two aircraft like the Lancaster, Blenheim and Flying Fortress, there were also modern aircraft like the B-1B Lancer, F-117 Nighthawk, B-52 Superfortress and a feeble flypast by the B-2 stealth bomber.