The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is the world’s largest military air show, held annually over the third weekend in July, usually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom in support of The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. The show usually attracts a total of 150,000 to 200,000 spectators on both days. The first Air Tattoo was staged at North Weald airfield in Essex with just over 100 aircraft taking part. The event was founded by Timothy Prince and Paul Bowen. From these small beginnings the show became the International Air Tattoo in 1976, and recognition of its unique status was granted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1996, when the current Royal International Air Tattoo title was adopted. From 1973 to 1983 RIAT was held at Greenham Common before moving to RAF Fairford in 1985.

RIAT Fairford 2009

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.

Robert Hodgson