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SPARKLING START TO AIR TATTOO PREVIEW

DARE-DEVIL parachutists provided a taste of what's to come when they dropped in to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire today (Tuesday, May 29).

Members of the RAF Falcons parachute display team unfurled a Diamond Jubilee flag as they drifted down to earth from 3,000ft at a special preview of the Royal International Air Tattoo.

The world's biggest military airshow, which will take place on July 7 and 8, is this year celebrating HM the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and a sparkling display of aircraft touched down to publicise this summer's event.

Children's tv presenter Barney Harwood flew in as the day's special guest, arriving in style courtesy of an RAF Hawk flown by Fairford-born display pilot Flt Lt Phil Bird.

The logo on the flag delivered by the RAF Falcons had been chosen from thousands of entries in a children's design competition run by the BBC's Blue Peter programme, and presenter Barney performed the official raising of the flag, accompanied by the Fanfare team from the Band of the RAF Regiment.

Barney said: "I got my first Airfix kit at the age of eight, and that was a Hawk, so it was incredible to actually fly in one. It relays the message that anything is possible: I used to work in a kennels and now here I am in an RAF jumpsuit. It's such a beautiful aircraft and it was so exciting to fulfil a lifelong ambition."

Five spectacular aircraft touched down at the Gloucestershire airbase, including a Chipmunk with a royal connection - WP903, painted in the bright colours of the Royal Flight, is the actual two-seater trainer aircraft in which Prince Charles learnt to fly and an RAF Tucano, painted in special Diamond Jubilee livery.

A deHavilland Vampire T11, which entered service with the RAF 60 years ago, was also on show, while a US Air Force MC-130 Hercules, operated by US Special Forces, also flew in, symbolising the close links between the airshow and the USAF.

Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said: "It's been great to provide a preview of what's in store in July, as we have an exceptional line-up of aircraft. As well as a special mass flypast of Hawks in an E II R formation, the Air Tattoo will feature seven aerobatic display teams including Al Fursan, a newly-formed team from the United Arab Emirates who'll be making their European debut at the airshow.

"Two countries, Colombia and South Korea, will be making their Air Tattoo debuts, the iconic Avro Vulcan will be here to thrill the crowds, and many of the world's top fast jets will also be joining us in July. The world really is coming to Fairford this year make sure you don't miss out on the action."

Click here to see the full set of photos taken by the RIAT Photography team

Click here to see photos taken by Mark Watkins

May 29, 2012

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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