Little did I know when I chose my “headquarters” in the North Cotswold’s how fortunate I would be. It seems that this area, being about midway between London, Manchester, Oxford and Leeds would be the epicenter for so many amazing things. I am within an hour of Silverstone, Prescott Hill and Shelsey Walsh, major racing venues. Nearby where all the major car clubs hold their annual meets. Forty-five minutes from the British Motor Museum, the Jaguar Heritage Center and the Jaguar and Morgan factories. In the middle of ancient cultural sights and near Cirencester, the Roman capital of Corinium. Oxford, Cambridge and Stratford-on-Avon are within an hour. Amazing, and there are castles, ruins, abbeys, pretty villages and more in abundance. Lucky me.
Then there is the RIAT, The Royal International Air Tattoo. The biggest, most important and most astounding air show in England. I have learned my lesson from the many beer festivals and similar that I have attended: If you can go on Friday, forget the weekend and avoid the crowds.
So off we went on Friday to the “Tattoo” as they call it here. 40 minutes’ drive on some nice backroads and OMG, there is this humongous RAF airfield in the middle of nowhere. Friday’s crowd of 40,000 was considered the “warm up act”, though essentially the same program was on offer (sound British?) for both Saturday and Sunday where the crowds were expected to be 3x.
I sprang for a lawn seat in the “Viewing Village”, promising flight line viewing on the lawn, with amenities. This wasn’t VIP treatment, nor was I going to be with the “rabble”. £34 including parking and program. Not bad. What I didn’t realize is that this airbase has a two-mile-long runway and every bit of it is included in one of four viewing areas. I also didn’t realize how BIG an air force base is. From the parking lot to the entry gates was a one-mile walk. From the gate to the “viewing line” was another half mile. I entered at the Red gate (no choice) and had to make my way to the Blue viewing area. No sweat, another ¾ mile walk! So, 2.5 miles just to get to my seat! Now all this is not without many interesting sights, including planes, helicopters, booths selling all manor of military swag and more. The Breitling watch store had two armed guards outside…. I didn’t go in!
Back to “flight line”. I have been to some US air shows and the action is a long way off. Here there are two flight lines. Prop planes take off on a runway 100 yards from the fans. Jets must stay 250 yards off. Suffice to say that when an F35 takes off with afterburners on 250 yards from your face, you check your eyebrows to see if they are still there! This is close up and personal stuff!
The program was very international, but needless to say, the Brits had center stage. An early flyover of a Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire from WWII was great. Of the 5500 Lancaster bombers made (and which basically won the air war), only two remain in flying condition. Most are rusting away in farm fields in France, Belgium and Germany having been blown to bits. All these lifted off just 300 feet from my nose. The ticket selection was a stroke of luck (genius?)
The day consisted of many elements, mostly precision air demonstrations by England, the US, Spain, France, Poland, Switzerland and others in fighter planes, but there were also demonstrations of the mobility of gigantic cargo planes, prop planes and anything else that would fly. And an AWESOME demonstration by the US’s latest sky dominator, the F35. The audio on the video portion below do not do justice to the SOUND. If that sound doesn’t cause enemy combatants to need a diaper change, they are seriously in need of more fiber in their diets! As the Brits would say “Good Show”.
Cultural observation. The various nationalities that flew all used colored smoke for effect. As you can see in the pix, mostly red, white and blue. It is amazing how many country’s flags are red, white and blue. When the Spanish planes went up, I was looking for a little color change (red and yellow). They used grey! Apparently the smoke companies don’t make yellow!
As the show was moving into mid-afternoon, thunderstorms were gathering. As the first drops of rain started to fall, I headed for the parking lot, having left the Jag top down (and knowing I had a bit of a walk to reach my car). I figured if the storm blew over, I could watch the rest in the parking lot and still beat the crowds out onto the one lane roads. Well, the best laid plans…… I was parked in the red zone (though my ticket said to park in the blue zone, but they would not let me). I entered by the red gate but left by the blue gate. The parking areas were right next to each other….in theory. In fact, they were separated by a road and a LONG fence. Three and a half miles later, I got to my car. It was barely damp, and the rain had not yet hit (though my feet hurt like hell and the pints of beer I had consumed were long gone). Put the “hood” (top) up, so of course it would not rain the whole way home. At least I beat the crowd. The show ended at 6 (or later with the rain delay), and I am sure there were still people in the parking lot queue (Brit speak again) at 9pm.
All in all, another great day and cultural experience extraordinaire. Now that I know the ropes, I should have gone back for another day as there were so many static displays and other attractions I didn’t even come close to. Next time hire a caravan (motorhome) and stay the weekend.
THIS IS WHAT A 300 FOOT FLIGHT LINE FEELS LIKE! THIS IS NOT A TELEPHOTO LENS!
HURICANE, LANCASTER BOMBER AND SPITFIRE
IF YOU WERE A GERMAN, THIS IS THE SIDE OF A LANCASTER YOU DID NOT WANT TO SEE
THE BRITISH PLANES THAT SAVED ENGLAND AND HELPED WIN WWII
AN AMAZINGLY FLEXIBLE CARGO PLANES, MODEL “DUH”
ABOVE ARE THE BRITS “RED ACES”
MORE AMAZING STUFF
P. D. CLOSE
SMOKE ONLY COMES IN THREE COLORS
THE SWISS “PRECISION” FLYING TEAM
Sorry no video links attached. Seems YouTube and other options are so interested in their own profitability they they have abandoned their original goals in pursuit of profit. Every time I try to publish a video, it tries to embed an ad, so I will not allow this. When I figure out how to send you a secure link I will.