RIAT 2002

Toms Review of the Royal Interantional Air Tattoo 2002
held at Fairford AFB in Great Britain

Click here to go directly to the photos !

The Royal International Air Tattoo 2002 were held on two (4 for the die hard spotter if you count arrival day and leaving day) days on Fairford AFB. So after two years of being held at Cottesmore it is now back at where it belongs. The Airshow was held at the 20th and the 21st of Juli 2002. The weather on saturday, in spite of the predictions of rain and low cloudcover, was good with temperatures between 15 and 21 degrees celcius (between 59 and 70 degrees farenheit). Couldcover was high and ranged between dark and fluffy white. Occasionally sunshine made shooting good and challenging with a good variation in cloudbackground. One small bit of rain which lasted less than 10 minutes. Photoconditions ranged from poor to excellent throughout the day.

Getting in proved challenging aswell. Except from the usual trafficjams there was a security checkpoint, I call it Checkpoint Charlie.
The public was let in by groups of about 30 people at the time. Once in the ticket area you were sniffed by a dog and some soldiers walked around the group, spotting out suspicious characters (no idea if they found any). After this you were led to a security area where you were scanned for weapons or explosives, at least I think that was what they were doing. I'm a little bit suprised they didn't find anything on me. My films are allways packed in Hama Film safe boxes which just show up as big black blobs on any x-ray machine. And I was stupid enough to forget that I was packing a small knife. Just for the curious among you, if have it to eat an apple every now and again and it comes in handy in my line of work which is the ICT business (for opening notebook covers NOT customers). But I was stupid enough to forget about it. But they didn't find it. The metal detector, which usually beeps if I'm just looking at it didn't go off at my belt buckle or my glasses, or on anything else. But I was not stupid enough to ask if the thing was on.

For the first time I saw an actual crash on an airshow. On every airshow something happens, doors don't quite close, burst tires, smokepods that malfunction ect. But this time it was a bit bigger. Around 11:34 an Italian Cargo plane (the G222) did a fast decent on the runway in the middle of a great display, and bounced, bounced back and the front undercarriage broke. A small fire broke out as the plane went along the runway on its nose. After the plane had halted the crew bailed out and ran while the emergency services took a look at it. A long look, but they spraye the front end of the plane. Fortunatly nobody got hurt, but it took several hours to remove the plane from the Runway. Around 16:10 the plane was removed and the remainder of the runway was given free. Just in time for the B1B display. Unfortunatly the crash disrupted the program and the B52 and F15 Demo were cancelled.

Personally I find it odd that the F15 Demo was cancelled, the Harriers and the Hawks which were on the same planepark as the F15's. So they taxied to the second part of the runway and took off from there. The Hawks did the same. There was plenty of runway to take off and land from. Fairford has an extended runway to serve the Space Shuttle in case of an emergency. So the F15's could have taken off, easily. Pherhaps a lack in communication.

The US Airforce did do a great display with the F117 Stealth Fighter which made up for them losing the B52 and F15 displays.

Again a great display from the Dutch Airforce with the F-16 MLU, excellent and WITH Flares! Great Mirage duo display, incredible close manouvering. So close in fact that I'm suprised it was allowed on the RIAT. Great show from the Utterly Butterly Barnstormers team with biplanes (Boeing Stearman) very cool to see them waving back at the public.

Frecce Tricolore, as allways, a pleasure to watch, Red Arrows, no matter how many times I see them I still am amazed. Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Los Alcones, great displays. Team Aguila, smooth and nice. These were highlights, there was a lot more to see.

The good things and bad things.

Good things

  • Great displays from B1B Lancer, F117 Nighthawk, RNAF F16 WITH Flares! Mirages and many more.
  • Loads of afterburners.
  • Spitfires, P-51D mustang, B17G "Sally B", Lancaster, Hurricane and P47D Thunderbolt.
  • Great display from the Dutch F16 (MLU) with the Black and White striped paintjob.
  • Several great displayteams, Red Arrows, Royal Jordanian Falcons, Utterly Butterly, the Frecce Tricolore, Los Alcones.
  • Very well organised airshow even when things went wrong. The show went on.
  • Loads of good souvenirs and other goodies.
  • 1 minute silence to salute the Bomber crews that had fallen in Combat.

Bad things

  • Airshow costs 24.95 pounds just to get in. Yes I do know it is for a good cause, but it is a bit steep.
  • Security Checks, unfortunatly nessecary after the Horror of 9-11-2001.
  • Trafficjams. Ever seen an Airshow without a trafficjam?
  • Seemed to be less on the static than previous years.
  • No Rafale, No B52 display on saturday. No Eurofighter.
  • Reaction to the crash, showwise could have been quicker. Removal of the crashed plane could have been quicker.
  • B2 made just one pass.
  • No Flankers, No Bears, No TU-22 Backfire. (Heavy disappointment)
  • Nimrod just going up and down the runway.


As allways this Mother of all Airshows in Europe is good. Well organized. Good layout.

Still there are some disappointments, No Eurofighter? What was up with that? First they promote the thing and then when the RAF has bought it.... no show?
No Rafale either.... What? You didn't buy our Rafale so we are not coming?
That the Americans didn't show their F-22 Raptor, I can understand, why risk it? But no Eurofighter...? Come on... it was one of the things I wanted to see. For the first time in years I can say that the Royal Netherlands Airforce Open Days starts to come really close to the RIAT. Just make the static 3 times as big. A bit more flying heavy stuff and they're there.

But as I said before and will now say again. You can't go wrong with the RIAT it's big and beautifull. Loads of things to see, things to get and things to shoot. It is an Airshow that forms the highlight of many spotters and enthousiasts around Europe and I really enjoyed my stay there.

Many thanks to all of the kind people who made The Royal International Air Tattoo possible. (The military, the pilots, supportcrews, Airforce cadets, the catering, the stand keepers, the mechanincs and technicians and all the others)

And now for the photos..... Click here


What did I use on this airshow?
All photos were made with a Canon Eos 500N and a Nikon 950 Coolpix digital camera. Lenses used, 19-35 mm and 75-300 mm fitted with a 2 times Teleconverter giving it a range of 150-600 mm. The coolpix has a range of 38-115 mm (optical). Shots were made in speed priority mode for the Canon Eos 500n. Lowest recorded speed was 1/180 with an aperture of 5.6 with 400 iso film (loads of dark clouds but no rain) lens set at around 500mm. The highest speed highest was 1/2000 with an aperture of 5.6 with 400 iso film, lens at 600mm. Most used speeds were 1/750 and 1/1000th with apertures 5.6, 6.7, 8, 9.5 and 11 at 400 iso.

This time I only shot with Kodak 400 iso Ultra. I shot seven and a half rolls of film and about 150 digital shots (1600*1200 normal mode on a 64 mb card and a few smaller ones on 1024*768).

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