Air Tattoo Beats Farnborough for Spectacle, Military Clout

 - July 6, 2012, 11:25 AM
U.S. Air Force commander Gen Norton Schwarz speaks at the RIAT Gala Dinner in 2010. More than 40 air chiefs are attending the black-tie event this year. (Photo: Chris Pocock)

The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford in the UK reports a record number of acceptances in response to invitations sent to international air forces. Approximately 250 military aircraft from 25 countries, and air chiefs from more than 40 countries, are attending the event, which takes place this weekend before the Farnborough International Airshow opens. Highlights include a U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber, the Saudi, Korean and UAE aerobatic teams, and first-ever visits by the Colombian and Japanese air arms.

A RIAT spokesman told AIN that ticket sales this year are about the same as last year, meaning that some 130,000 spectators will make their way to the Gloucestershire airfield. All tickets are sold in advance, via retail outlets and the RIAT website. The event is billed as a public spectacle, but it also attracts substantial corporate participation from defense companies anxious to mix and mingle with the military brass. About 20 aerospace firms have taken hospitality suites, including Northrop Grumman, which is not exhibiting at Farnborough this year. Along with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman is also sponsoring RIAT’s Gala Dinner, a black-tie affair on Friday evening that is held in a hangar at the airbase. BAE Systems is another major sponsor, and is hosting the Patron’s Pavilion this year.

The spokesman said that RIAT cooperates with the organizers of the Farnborough showto attract aircraft and visitors to both events. But Farnborough’s attraction to the general public seems to be diminishing. The organizers bowed to pressure from exhibitors to close the exhibition halls over the final weekend, when the public is admitted. Farnborough’s air display is much shorter than RIAT’s, and Farnborough cannot guarantee that all the aircraft on show during the trade days will stay for the public days. Farnborough says that it is selling public tickets for Friday for the first time, priced at £30, which is £5 less than for public-day entry bought in advance. RIAT charges £39.

Some of the aircraft appearing at RIAT will move on to Farnborough next week. They include the Korean T-50 team, four Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys, the Irkut Yak-130 jet trainer, the Saab Gripen NG and the same company’s 2000 MPA. An Airbus Military A400M airlifter will also make the short trip across southern England, after a formal naming ceremony at RIAT on Friday, attended by the UK defense procurement minister and the chief of the air staff.