RIAT (Fairford UK)

Photos: By Peter Hampson and Andy Tenny

The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is an annual event held at RAF Fairford (Gloucestershire, UK). The organisers bill the event as “The World’s Greatest Airshow” and to be honest there are few people that would argue with that!


In 2018 a record crowd of 185,000 people enjoyed the show which also marked the Royal Air Force’s Centenary. In total, 302 aircraft, from 43 air arms representing 30 nations attended the airshow, of which 121 took part in the flying display.

These statistics speak for themselves. The event is indeed unrivalled anywhere in the world and the organisation is second to none.


You can go to the Airfield and watch the aircraft arrive before the show, watch the aircraft practice their displays, watch the aircraft during the airshow and watch the aircraft depart after the event – and do all this from various special enclosures… at a price to meet your own requirements.

The shown has gown into a very slick machine. So much so that expectations are very high and probably grow higher each and every year in terms of visiting aircraft.


The show will have a number of themes – usually to commemorate an anniversary. This will involve aircraft in the massive Static aircraft park and the equally impressive Flying display. The Flying display starts early in the morning and continues till early evening.

Whilst the show is primarily organised by volunteer enthusiasts for enthusiasts it is without doubt big business – but business for a very worthy charitable cause (causes) – through the RAF Charitable Trust.


There are Corporate Chalets (similar to any large aviation trade event) and major Sponsors. If you want to watch from a Grandstand or VIP Marquee you may do so with everything coming at a price to meet your own needs. In fact if you want to avoid the traffic and be fast tracked into the event (and out) you can… at a price.

Tickets go on sale well in advance of the 3 day Airshow and often sell out months in advance. Planning is essential, you will need to decide when you want to go and what you want to see as each day will have a different flying programme. Indeed it is not uncommon for people to go for several days and it’s probably impossible to visit the Static Park, all the trade stalls / exhibits and watch the full airshow in one day.


The organisers try to think of everything – from photographic bus tours of the Static Park to the Display aircraft. With hop on / hop off stops en route!. There are photographic Grand Stands at the Runway touch down, mid point and stop end of the runway. However, if you just want to pick your spot on the grass and take your own flask and sandwiches you can do so…


Recommendations:- Do your planning, book your tickets in advance (its not cheap).  There are “early bird” offers. Unless you go for a “fast track” VIP Ticket don’t forget the traffic…it’s a very popular event and even though the queues are well managed.. they are long and will probably take time. Also remember the British weather…although the event is held in July it can and does rain and it can also be very hot. Take account of the weather in your planning.


Without doubt the RIAT experience is something special and there is nothing like it. But be prepared for a long day….you don’t get “owt for nowt!” and here “you can fill your boots!”

For further info:- https://www.airtattoo.com/