For the last two years, through my Flying Club's association with BAE Systems, I have had the incredible privilege to privately fly into the world's largest military airshow - the Royal International Air Tattoo.
I currently fly as a member of the BAE Flying Club; open to employees of BAE Systems and their family members. As BAE is a significant sponsor of the Air Tattoo, we're exclusively permitted to fly ourselves in. Here's how it works...
The flying club aircraft are each booked across the two (or in this year's case, three) days of the Air Tattoo. Combining 2 PA28s and a C152, we can take 10 pilots each day with the aircraft returning to base each night.
The flying club liaise with RIAT's planning team, who add our aircraft to their list of air movements, assign each aircraft a callsign (nothing fancy - this year ours was CIV33) and a 2 minute time slot for landing.
We send over ID and they print each pilot an 'Aircrew' pass, allowing us access to briefing facilities (may I add, these are the same briefing facilities used by the display teams) and the Aircrew tent, which stands tall and offers a great view of the displays.
This year I was going to be arriving in our C152, G-BHFI with top pilot and YouTube Celebrity Plane Old Ben.
On The Day
I don't recall our exact slot time, but with a 1.5hr flight I do remember it was a very early wake-up (partially from excitement...), we arrived at the airport and were ready for departure somewhere around 07:00L.
After departure we transited Liverpool's airspace avoiding the Manchester Low Level Corridor and before I knew it we were on right base at RAF Fairford! No pressure for Ben landing... it's not like anyone was watching?
Once off the runway, we were assigned an escort vehicle who took us to our marshallers. After parking we refuelled, said hello to Sir David Jason (who landed in his helicopter shortly after us) and were taken by private minibus to the showground.
They dropped us off at the briefing facility where we were issued our passes (and free lunch vouchers!), then we wandered off to take a look around.
The Aircrew Tent
Guarded by Air Cadets and access heavily restricted, this was our chosen 'meeting place', though I stayed there most of the day. The huge two-storey tent (yes, I know... they managed that somehow) offered great views from upstairs, a bar and a seating area outside. We were almost the only ones not wearing flight suits, as it was mostly populated by air and ground crews from the display teams from all over the world - I remember feeling quite under dressed last year and carefully adjusted for that this time!
I did a bit of exploring, enjoyed the displays and realised by our rendezvous at lunch time, that I was being quite heavily sunburned... The weather was perfect for an airshow but also perfect for turning me very red.
Huge thanks to Ben for getting me there and back safely, and Garry for making it possible! My blog's very new, please help me out with a like/comment/share where possible! And if you haven't had enough yet, take a look at my photos and Ben's YouTube video from the day!
Until next time,