RIAT 2023

At the beginning of the year, two of our members decided to travel to RIAT with the company 4Aviation, which organizes spotter events.

On July 14, 2023, the day finally arrived when Lukas and Aurelius set off together towards Nijmegen, where the 4Aviation bus departed. At 15:30 sharp, we left Nijmegen to pick up other spotters at different pickup stations. We arrived at the ferry in Calais around midnight, where we had to wait for about an hour until boarding began. At approximately 01:30, the ferry departed for Dover. After a 1.5-hour journey, we arrived in Dover and headed straight for Fairford. Around 5 am, we made our final stop about 20 minutes away from RIAT. After the break, we embarked on the last leg of the journey, and finally, at around 6:30 am, we arrived at Fairford. The weather was much better than forecasted, with some clouds and no rain as expected. People were already waiting at the entrances. We joined the queue and had to undergo strict baggage checks since the organizers were concerned about climate glue (previous years only had random article checks). The gates opened punctually at 7:30, and we had time to explore all the static displays. We visited all the statics one after another and even had the opportunity to peek inside an RAF A400. By 9 am, the first arrivals were already announced, so we briefly interrupted the static display to photograph the Hungarian Air Force Gripen, which perfectly caught the first rays of sunlight. After it landed, we continued with the static displays since we hadn't covered them all yet.

At the end of the static display, the highlights awaited us: the Greek F4 Phantoms, the Polish SU-22s, and the two Italian Harriers. Next to them was a German Eurofighter in a special livery, which we quickly photographed. By 9:30, we had finished exploring all the static displays and had 30 minutes left until the flying program began. 

We boarded the Airshow Bus to quickly find a spot around the middle of the runway. At the Line Up of the first act, the Patrouille Aguila, we took our positions, took out our cameras, and turned on our radio scanner. Two minutes later, the first display of the day began, an impressive performance by the Patrouille Aguila. After all six planes landed, the Spanish Air Force Harrier, one of the highlights of RIAT 2023, rolled onto the runway. It made a backtrack and then took off to leave the airfield and return later with another VSTOL aircraft. The Finnish F18 then started its display, showcasing various maneuvers, including the Angle of Attack, in about 9 minutes before landing.

Next was the SK60 pilot from Sweden, who impressed the audience with elegant flight maneuvers. After the SK60 safely landed, the Harrier returned for a solo display, demonstrating its capabilities. The Italian Eurofighter then exhibited its skills with a special tail, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Italian Air Force. Subsequently, the M346, a training aircraft of the Italian Air Force, demonstrated its abilities.

The program continued with the theme "Skytanker" since 100 years ago, the first successful air-to-air refueling took place. An MC130 with extended tank pods and a VC-22 Osprey simulated air-to-air refueling, after this the Osprey making several approaches. The Belgian F16 pilot known as "Vrieske" took to the sky with an impressive new display for the 2023 season, featuring his unique negative G maneuvers.

The program had to pause for about 10 minutes as it needed to be adjusted due to bad weather preventing the ME262, the highlight of RIAT2023, from flying. Afterward, the German Army NH90 demonstrated its capabilities in the rain, followed by the Finnish F18 positioning for the next "Skytanker" flyby.

The Italian A129 Mangusta, a combat helicopter built by Italy, then showcased its abilities with an impressive display. The Finnish F18, along with a KC-30 from the Royal Air Force, flew a flyby, although it was a bit uneventful as the KC-30's tank pods were not extended.

Next, the German Air Force A400 rolled for takeoff, towing two Tornados, one equipped with the A/A Refueling Tank. The Tornados flew in A/A Refueling position behind the A400, which had its air refueling pods extended. Afterward, the Tornados separated from the A400, and one of them refueled in a body-to-body position. They concluded the display with another dedication pass. The Spanish Harrier returned for another solo display, impressing the crowd with its capabilities.

As the day went on, the program included displays by the Gripen from Sweden and the aerobatic team Al Fursan. Around 17:30, the program came to an end with Al Fursan landing. Afterward, we had plenty of time to explore the static display further and visit the patch stands, where we bought a few patches. As a final stop, we went inside a C17, which transported the Queen on her last flight. Finally, after enjoying some fries with a great view of the static lineup, we headed towards the exit. Before leaving, we had the opportunity to take a quick look inside a CH53, thanks to the friendly crew who allowed us.

We left the site around 7 pm, boarded the waiting bus, and departed RIAT at 7:30. We made several stops along the way and had to wait a long time for the ferry, during which we took the chance to catch some sleep. As we boarded the ferry, the sun was rising, and we enjoyed the view from the ferry in Dover. Around 9 am, we were back in Europe, continuing our journey towards Nijmegen. We finally arrived at around 3 pm. My parents picked up Aurelius and me, concluding our exciting trip.

In summary, RIAT was an exhilarating day, and there was never a dull moment. Both the flying and static displays offered numerous highlights, catering to everyone's interests. The weather turned out to be better than expected, and we were fortunate that RIAT didn't get completely rained out. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I am considering going again next year, as it is definitely worth the trip.

Written by: Lukas(@planespotter_lukas