Tag Archives: air show

RIAT 2018: a Big Success or a Letdown?

The Royal International Air Tattoo 2018 at RAF Fairford, UK.

RIAT 2018: a benchmark of an airshow, with its diversity, the flying program, the static display. They all come together to form an unbeatable whole. It is the largest international air show in Europe, with high diversity of participants, both on the ground, as well as in the air. This year, the expectations were high, due to the RAF centenary. We attended the show and here’s what we have seen.

This year the show attracted a record breaking 185,000 people for the three day show as well as 302 aircraft from 43 air arms, representing 30 different nations.

For a person coming over from Eastern Europe, as in case of me, The Aviationist’s Polish contributor, the expectations were to see some of the finest western hardware in the air, including stealth aircraft or RAF demos that rarely visit Poland or Czech Republic, that are far more accessible in our part of Europe. The author was also hoping to see some USAF assets flying in the air, since the American military is somewhat reluctant in sending its jets and demos to the eastern part of Europe, Poland included. RIAT, considering its international profile, constitutes a diplomatic arena, similarly to other international aviation event. Often the flightline largely represents the diplomatic relations between the nations involved. For instance, RIAT’s static display featured Japanese assets that are really a rarity at the European air shows that are not focused on sales pitch.

When it comes to the flying display, it had some highlights.

First of the highlights was the F-35 Heritage Demo Team of the USAF. It was really something special to see the F-35 flying alongside a Mustang.

The USAF F-35 was among the highlights of RIAT 18.

On the occasion of the RAF centenary, it was decided that a Spitfire would join the formation. In general, some interesting formation flypasts took place in the sky during the weekend. This included a tribute to the Dambusters, with the formation paying tribute to the Squadron’s past, immediate past/present, and its future. The RAF decided to have a formation flypast in the sky, with the Lancaster bomber acting as the leader, and followed by the F-35 and the Tornado, both of which were/will be used by the unit in question.

F-35 Heritage Demo Team including a RAF Spitfire.

Another highlight of the show came in a form of a flypast on Saturday: RAF Fairford was visited by a B-2 bomber (Spirit of New York) that made a pass over the airfield being accompanied by two F-15 Eagles. The aircraft came to the UK direct from Whiteman Air Force Base, its homebase in Missouri.

When it came to the dynamic portion of the show, one could say that it was somewhat “standard” for an Air Tattoo. We’ve seen most of the RAF assets, including the Typhoon demo team, or the Red Arrows in the air. When it comes to the Commonwealth nations, Canada has sent its Hornet demo to the UK, in its new paint scheme. Other display teams included Frecce Tricolori, Royal Jordanian Falcons or the Couteau Delta Tactical Display.

The “Alona” (Big Wing), the last spectacular maneuver of the Frecce Tricolori display team.

Mirage 2000s of the Couteau Delta Tactical Display.

Staying with the word “tactical”, one should note that many of the displays honored this type of a routine, instead of showcasing the full, maybe sometimes unnecessary capabilities of the aircraft. This was visible most clearly in case of the C-27 Spartan demo of the Italian Air Force, as it no longer included the infamous loop or knife-edge pass – this was a major disappointment. One should say that it looked quite modest, when compared to the Airbus A400M display, featuring a maneuver involving a 120 degrees bank angle. The Atlas was being flown by an Airbus test pilot and wore the RAF100 livery. It was suggested that the plane flying was the last one to be received by the RAF.

The RAF A400 performed an impressive display.

Typhoon demo of Aeronautica Militare was brilliant as usual, on the other hand, with the pilot being able to fully display the jet’s capabilities.

Italian Air Force Typhoon close up.

Couteau Delta team, replacing the famous Ramex Delta formation, also flew a brilliant display with numerous tactical maneuvers and the jets flying in extremely tight formations.

Moreover, the French also sent their Rafale duo team, representing the Marine Nationale and simulating carrier ops routines, as well as their Rafale Solo display.

The amazing French Air Force Rafale.

Four F-16 demos also displayed at RIAT, all being different in character. The Polish Air Force Tiger Demo Team exhibited its new display routine, including numerous moments when vapor cones were forming on the aircraft. Interestingly, the Polish F-16 also made a short landing with the landing parachute being deployed – which was a unique element of the routine. Greek F-16 of the Zeus demo team also flew an interesting routine with numerous high-g maneuvers involved. The Belgian Air Component demo team, with its new pilot, callsign “Vador”, also did a good show. Notably, the Belgian jet, during the current airshow season, is going to have its horizontal stabilizer repainted, to match with the show where it performs – in case of RIAT we could have seen RAF100 livery on that control surface. And last, but not least, Solo Turk closed the list of the F-16 demos, with its display being quite spectacular, especially on Sunday, when the Turkish Falcon was scheduled to fly in the morning.

Solo Turk F-16 creating its own “cloud system”.

Even though the weather was very hot, there was still some humidity left in the air then, which made it possible for the jet to break through the air and show off some vapor. Swiss Air Force was another of participants, sending its PC-7 team flying a formation with its Hornet Solo. Speaking of Hornets, alongside the Swiss and Canadian demos, the Finns also showcased their flying program. The show announcer mentioned the fact that the latter two nations had their flight control software updated in the jet, which enhanced their AoA performance – yet again, it needs to be said that the three Hornet demos were very different, even though the airframe was the same. If the author was to point to the one he liked the most, then the Finnish pilot would win, for his low level flying, while the Canadian Hornet had the most interesting livery. Notably, the Canadian demo jet was flying in its special colors on Friday and Saturday, while on Sunday the RCAF used a spare jet, wearing a regular, gray color scheme. A major highlight also came in a form of a British F-35B performing a hover in front of the crowd. Helicopter demo teams included the RAF Chinook Display team, as well as the Finnish NH90. US CV-22B Osprey also made a dynamic display at RIAT.

UK’s F-35B during the display at RIAT.

The locals also showcased some of their vintage flying hardware, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, now involving a Spitfire, Mustang, DC-3 (C-47) and a Lancaster. The big planes, referred to as the “bombers” by the show announcer, flew some close formations and even did a break. This was an interesting and new sight to see, compared with the previously employed display routines. Historical displays also included The Great War Display Team, the show of which was very reminiscent of the one presented by the Pterodactyl Flight group we admired during the Poznan Air Show event this year.

One should also say that the expectations of the British citizens are inverted – meaning that they come to RIAT to see the eastern designs in their sky. Here, they have every right to be disappointed. Poland, which is almost a “permanent” presence at RIAT, highly valued for its MiG-29 Fulcrum or Su-22 Fitter demos, did not send any of those aircraft to the UK. The Fulcrum was not even scheduled to go to the UK. This is partially caused by the fact, as the unofficial info suggests, that both fleets have been grounded now, due to the K-36 ejection seat maintenance issues (both the Fitter, as well as the Fulcrum use these seats) and suspected faulty operation, following the recent fatal crash of the Fulcrum. Moreover, the MiG-21 LanceR demo team of the Romanian Air Force suffered from a crash just one week before RIAT, which also rendered the participation of that jet in the British event impossible.

It is interesting though, that Poland was not willing (did not ever confirm that) to send its MiG-29 to the British show, given the Minsk Mazowiecki Fulcrum squadron’s heritage and links to the RAF Squadron 303. Seeing a Fulcrum fly in a formation with the Hurricane (as it happened in Cosford), Spitfire or the Mustang would really have been something. The East was represented by the ‘beast’ – the Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker demo, which really was a highlight for the British audience, not so much for the Eastern Europeans, who, comparing the Ukrainian demo to the routines flown by the Russians, could have been mildly disappointed. Also, as flares are prohibited at the RIAT due to safety concerns (weapon storage areas), this element was cut – both from the Flanker display, as well as from any display routine – which further diminished the wow factor entailed by the Sukhoi’s jet.

The Ukrainain Air Force Su-27.

Here we come to a matter which seemed to kill the special character of the RAF100 RIAT – the historic connections with the Commonwealth nations or the allies were not really honored during the show. Someone was expecting something really special. Except for Canada and Australia, the connections with Singapore, Malaysia, India, South Africa and other nations who were colonially associated with the UK did not show in spite of many spotters and aviation enthusiasts “prayers”. This is a field that could be potentially explored to make the show even more interesting – for instance, the presence of Indian Su-30MKI aircraft would have made RIAT more exotic, even though the JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force) Kawasaki C-2 at its first Air Tattoo was a big thing.

This is largely a “what if” portion of the text, however, especially for those more used to the RIAT; given the occasion of the Centenary, one is tempted to ask questions, as to why the show was not much more spectacular considered the important anniversary the show celebrated.

Ukrainian Flanker.

So, for an Eastern European, the RIAT this year was – in essence – just another RIAT; the best airshow in the Continent with all of its spectacular character involved. Whilst hoping for something really special, the author of this report, was not disappointed with his visit at all.

Meanwhile, the British opinions may vary, as the show did not differ in its character from what we have been witnessing in the past, giving us all a bittersweet feeling in the end – the next chance to organize a spectacular show would not be here in 50 years, probably, since we would need to wait for another “round” anniversary.

The Red Arrows display team.

Addressing the question in the title, one should say that the answer depends on the point of view one takes – whether it is British or a European one, it might differ significantly.

All images: The Aviationist’s Jacek Siminski

Beautiful Video of The Only Two Flying B-29s Together For The First Time

First B-29 Formation in Over 50 Years Gets Airborne at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

For the first time since the early 1960’s when they were retired from U.S. Air Force service, two Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers flew together in formation at the AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The two aircraft, “Fifi”, aircraft number N529B and “Doc”, aircraft N69972, took to the air in formation at Oshkosh on Tuesday of this week. They were accompanied by a camera aircraft and a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber.

One of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and pilots at Oshkosh who witnessed the first formation flight, Ethan Jones, told TheAviationist.com, “It was jaw dropping. Being able to witness this flight was a moment many have been waiting for.” Jones traveled across the U.S. along with his wife for AirVenture. “We wanted to be surrounded with like-minded people for a week and see why they call EAA AirVenture Oshkosh ‘The Greatest Aviation Celebration’”.

Both of the B-29’s in Tuesday’s historic “reunion” flight have fascinating histories.

The B-29 aircraft number N529B named “Fifi” has been an attraction at airshows in the U.S. for a number of years. “Fifi” was purchased from surplus in 1971 and flew again for the first time in August of that year. It took another three years to restore her to certified flight status. In 2006 “Fifi” was grounded to begin replacement of her historically problematic Wright R-3350 Cyclone engines. Throughout the operational history of the B-29 the engines required frequent maintenance and were prone to problems including fires. “Fifi” received new engines pieced together from more advanced versions of the R-3350 over three years finishing up in 2010. The re-engining project cost an estimated $3 million USD. She returned to flight following the re-engining and has been an airshow headliner ever since.

B-29 aircraft number N69972, named “Doc”, is the newer arrival to the only two flying B-29’s in the world. “Doc” is from Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas factory and was built in 1944. He was never flown in combat. The aircraft was purchased from an aviation museum by a private non-profit in 2013. The non-profit returned the aircraft to flight status on July 17, 2016 when it made its first flight in 60 years. Prior to his purchase and restoration “Doc” had sat in outdoor desert storage on the way to being used as a target for years.

The B-29 Superfortress made history as the only aircraft to deliver operational nuclear strikes. Two B-29’s, the “Enola Gay” and “Bock’s Car” dropped single nuclear weapons on Japanese targets Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945 toward the conclusion of WWII. Both of those nuclear strike aircraft are preserved in museums. The nuclear attacks were intended to force Japan to surrender and avoid a U.S. invasion of Japanese islands that was projected to result in over a half million casualties according to U.S. estimates at the time.

The B-29 Superfortress featured major technical innovations including pressurized crew compartments and a remotely controlled defensive gun system. A pressurized tunnel ran from the forward section of the aircraft to the aft section over the bomb bay. Unlike the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, its predecessor, the B-29 Superfortress uses a modern, heavy-duty tricycle landing gear system.

The eight-day Air Venture airshow at Oshkosh concludes this weekend. “Fifi” and “Doc” are scheduled to fly one more demonstration sortie together at the show before they resume their individual airshow appearances for the rest of the season.

The B-29 “Fifi” was previously the only flying example. She was joined over Oshkosh by the more recently airworthy “Doc” for the first time this week. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Top image: Top aviation photographer Scott Slocum captured this remarkable portrait of “Fifi” and “Doc”, the only flying B-29’s in the world, in formation for the first time for EAA – The Spirit of Aviation. (Credit: EAA/Scott Slocum)

 

Check Out this awesome 360-degree Video of Blue Angels Flight

The Blue Angels filmed in 360-degree.

Take a look at this new video.

It was shot with 360fly, the first single-lens 360-degree camera, a type of device used to capture a lot of cool footage across a number of different sports.

A few days ago, on May 12, 2016, one 360fly HD camera was installed aboard one of the F/A-18 Hornet of the Blue Angels demo team during the first practice for the Spirit of St. Louis Air Show and Stem Expo. As you can see in the video below, the flight is captured from the #4 slot position, flown by Lt. Andy Talbot. The #4 jet flies directly behind the #1 and between and below the #2 and #3 jet.

360-degree clips are quickly becoming the standard for stunning aviation video.

View in Chrome for interactive video and don’t forget to look around!

This Insane 360-degree video will bring you aboard a Blue Angels Hornet during an airshow

Can you believe they can fly that close? Impressive.

The following video was filmed aboard Blue Angel 4,  in the “slot” position,  at the back right hand corner of the Angels’ diamond formation.

It was shot using USA TODAY’s specialized camera, designed to capture video in 360 degree from inside the cockpit of one of the F/A-18 Hornet of the U.S. Navy demo team, during Blue Angels display at the Great Georgia Airshow last month.

360° tech is becoming the new trend in aviation videos.

In August, we published a 360-video from inside the Heritage Flight Museum’s P-51D Mustang while flying and F-22 Raptor in close formation. Previously, we showed a similar video, shot from inside the rear cockpit of an F-5F Tiger of the “Patrouille Suisse” display team during a flight over the Swiss Alps.

Breathtaking video brings you aboard the Patrouille Suisse during Solenzara airshow

Something you don’t see very often.

Taken during the Meeting de l’Air hosted by the Base Aérienne 126 Ventiseri – Solenzara, from May 29 to 31, 2015, this cool video features the highlights of the Patrouille Suisse display which took place during the airshow.

Noteworthy, during the 2015 season the Swiss aerobatic team has not always flown with aircraft in its colours because among the sixteen Swiss Air Force F-5Es affected by airframe cracks, there were also five Patrouille Suisse red and white Tigers.

However, the shortage of aircraft didn’t prevent the team from filming awesome footage like the following one.

Top image credit: Patrouille Suisse / Yannick Barthe