Royal International Air Tattoo

The Royal International Air Tattoo is the world's largest military air show, held annually over the third weekend in July, usually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England in support of The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. The show typically attracts a total of 150,000 to 160,000 spectators over the weekend.


The first Air Tattoo was staged at North Weald Airfield in Essex in 1971, with just over 100 aircraft taking part. The event was founded by Paul Bowen and Timothy Prince, who were CAA air traffic controllers, and Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling. From 1973 to 1983 it was held intermittently at RAF Greenham Common, initially under the title of the Royal Air Forces Association, South Eastern Area, Air Tattoo before moving to RAF Fairford in 1985. The show became the International Air Tattoo in 1976, and recognition of its unique status was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996, when the current Royal International Air Tattoo title was adopted.
The event has had a number of air show firsts, including the first display and landing of the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber outside the United States of America during the 1997 "50 Years of the USAF" event and in 2008 the first landing of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor in Europe.
The show is a showcase for the world's military, and has become an important precursor to the Farnborough Airshow, which takes place a week after RIAT, every 'even' year. It allows the military aerospace industry to display and present its products outside the commercial pressures of the Farnborough show.

2008 cancellation

The 2008 airshow was to feature two themes, the 90th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force and Global Engagement and was scheduled to be held on 12–13 July. The United States Air Force Air Combat Command's F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team had made the first trans-Atlantic flight for the new stealth aircraft to participate in the show. On 11 July, the day before the air show opened to the public, Queen Elizabeth II presented, in poor weather conditions, new colours to the RAF and RAF Regiment in front of selected guests and VIPs. A week of heavy rainfall made the already-waterlogged car parks and parts of the airfield unusable. Safety concerns for the hundreds of thousands of expected visitors led the organisers to a last-minute cancellation of the public section of RIAT for the first time in the show's history.

RIAT 2009

RIAT 2009 was held on 18–19 July 2009. The show celebrated the 60th anniversary of NATO by charting its history in chronological order. The show all featured a Search and Rescue display to recognise the significance of missions undertaken by the aircraft and people that undertake these jobs. The show reportedly had over 160,000 spectators.

RIAT 2010

RIAT 2010 was held on 17–18 July 2010. The themes for the show were the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Training Aircraft and the 150th anniversary of Cadets. 9 members of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and 3 members of the New Zealand Air Training Corps were invited to the event for the first time, as part of the IACE exchange. The F-22 Raptor also appeared in its first RIAT flying display since 2008's cancelled show. Notable visitors to the 2010 show included James May and David Jason.

RIAT 2011

RIAT 2011 was held on 16–17 July 2011. This Air Tattoo looked back over the past four decades as it celebrated the show's 40th anniversary with a series of special aerial displays and ground entertainment. It also hosted a gathering of specially-decorated "Tiger" aircraft from the NATO Tiger Association. Tiger aircraft came from NATO squadrons that have a Tiger or Big Cat in their emblem and their association marked its 50th anniversary in 2011. RIAT 2011 saw a smaller crowd than usual of 138,000 attend the show. The Pilot of the Solo Türk Team, Murat Keleş was honoured at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2011 with the highest award, the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration.

RIAT 2012

RIAT 2012 was held on 7–8 July 2012. It saw the debut of the Black Eagles aerobatic team from South Korea and Japan became the 54th nation to participate in the tattoo with the arrival of one of its four Boeing KC-767Js operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, which brought the JASDF Taiko Drummers to the show.

RIAT 2013

RIAT 2013 took place on 20–21 July 2013. Invitations of participation were distributed to over 70 countries. The programme featured an Airbus A400M Atlas and one of the first deliveries of the Airbus A380 to British Airways, both of which flew in formation with the Red Arrows over the show weekend. RIAT 2013 was also notable due to the lack of US Military aircraft represented at the event, due to US government sequestration.
aircraft of the Breitling Jet Team perform at RIAT 2014.

RIAT 2014

RIAT 2014 took place 11–13 July 2014; the first time in its history that the show has been open to the public on a Friday. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was to make its anticipated European debut but was grounded in the U. S. due to an engine failure before it could cross the Atlantic. Highlights of 2014's show included a pair of Polish Air Force Sukhoi SU-22 Fitters along with celebrations for the 50th display season of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team.

RIAT 2015

RIAT 2015 was staged from 17–19 July 2015. The show's main theme was the celebration of 75 years since the Battle of Britain took place in the summer of 1940. RIAT 2015 also marked the last year of Avro Vulcan XH558's airworthiness, being retired later in the year. The show also paid tribute to 35 years of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment, with three aircraft performing flypasts over the weekend. Other participants included the Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet and the British debut of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force's Kawasaki P-1, which performed in the flying display, as well as the static park.

RIAT 2016

RIAT 2016 took place from the 8–10 July 2016. This show revolved around the latest generation of military aircraft types. The F-35 Lightning II made its UK debut after its cancellation in 2014, and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor also made a rare appearance. Other acts included the Swedish Air Force Saab Gripen and French Air Force Dassault Rafale. Notable static display items included the Hellenic Air Force F-4 Phantom, the first UK airshow appearance of a German Air Force Airbus A400M and the last airshow appearance of the QinetiQ Alpha Jet.

RIAT 2017

RIAT 2017 took place between 14th-17 July 2017. The show was a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force and saw the return of USAF Thunderbirds for the first time in 10 years. The show featured a special flypast from the USAF that included a C130 Hercules, 3 F15 Strike Eagles, 2 F16 Fighting Falcons, a KC135 tanker and on the Sunday a special appearance from a B2 Stealth Bomber. There was also a display from the F-22 Raptor on the Sunday of the show. A Sea King Helicopter from the Belgian Air Component performed a search and rescue demo
The show also saw the Ukrainian Air Force SU-27 added as a last minute addition as well as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster Bomber flying with 3 Spitfires & a Hurricane in a formation known as Thompson formation. Notable static displays included 2 F4 Phantoms from the Hellenic Air Force, while the Ukrainian Air Force sent a 2nd SU-27 & an Ilyushin Il-76 and the USAF provided many aircraft for static including a B1 Lancer, B52 Stratofortress and a U2 Spy plane.

RIAT 2018

RIAT 2018 was staged over 13–15 July 2018. The 2018 show featured 302 aircraft from 43 air arms and 30 nations, and featured a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. One of the most anticipated highlights of the show included a special "Dambusters Tribute Flypast" featuring an Avro Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight accompanied by a Panavia Tornado and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, all operated by the No. 617 Squadron RAF. Other flying highlights included displays by the US Air Force Heritage Flight; a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27; a Royal Canadian Air Force McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet; a French Aeronavale Dassault Rafale duo; the Italian Air Force's Frecce Tricolori aerobatic display team, and the RAF's Red Arrows. Visitors on Saturday were treated to a rare flypast by an American Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber that had made the round trip from its base in Missouri, United States.
In the static aircraft display there were examples of aircraft from around the world including debut appearances by an Embraer KC-390 from Brazil, a Kawasaki C-2 from Japan and an HH-101A variant of the AgustaWestland AW101 tactical helicopter from the Italian Air Force.

RIAT 2019

RIAT 2019 was staged from 19–21 July 2019, with 245 aircraft in attendance. The theme for the 2019 show was 'Air and Space, inspiring the next generation air force' and Tim Peake was among the guest speakers. the show also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Notable appearances included the Turkish Air Force F-4 Phantom on static display, a flying display from the heavily upgraded Romanian MiG-21 LanceR-C, designed in the 1950s, and the Spanish Navy's EAV-8B++ Harrier II on flying display. 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of British Airways, and, as such, a British Airways Boeing 747 in the BOAC livery performed a flypast in formation with the Red Arrows on the Saturday. Sunday saw another impressive pair of flypasts, most notably from the Red Arrows and Patrouille de France, who flew together, both in their 'Concorde' formation, to mark 50 years since the aircraft's first flight. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of NATO, a flypast took place on both Friday and Saturday, consisting of many F-16s and Typhoons from different air arms, three USAF F-15s, and a French Air Force C-135 tanker.

RIAT 2020 cancellation

RIAT 2020 was due to be staged from 17–19 July 2020, but was cancelled due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic


The Mid-air Collision at IAT 1993

On July 24, 1993, two MiG-29s of the Russian Air Force collided in mid-air and crashed away from the public. No one was hurt. After ejecting, the two pilots landed safely. Investigators later determined that pilot error was the cause, after one pilot did a reverse loop and disappeared into the clouds, the other one lost sight of his wingman and aborted the routine.

2002 Italian Air Force accident

In 2002 a G-222 of the Italian Air Force made a hard landing after demonstrating a steep descent approach, also known as the "Sarajevo approach", developed for the airbridge for supplying Sarajevo during its blockade in the Bosnian War. After initial touch down the aircraft bounced up and came back heavily on the nose wheel, which then collapsed. Emergency services were soon at the scene as the crew strolled from the stricken aircraft.