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Air Traffic Controllers Keep Watchful Eye On Air Tattoo Proceedings

Published: 15 Jul 2017

The Royal International Air Tattoo's experienced team of volunteer air traffic controllers keep the show safe and running on time. 

The volunteers, who work at some of Britain's busiest airports, descend on the show every year to man Fairford's distinctive control tower. From there they look after the hundreds of aircraft that arrive for the show and make sure that the aircraft are in the right place ready to perform the spectacular eight-hour flying display.

"Being an air traffic controller here is like nowhere else," says Gary Elson, deputy senior air traffic controller, who is marking his 20th year volunteering at the Air Tattoo. 

"Here we will look after fighters, light aircraft, and big is completely different."

The team works closely with nearby RAF Brize Norton as Fairford does not have its own radar system. Many of the controllers are also enthusiasts themselves, and do their best to ensure photographers at both ends of the airfield see their favourite jets and helicopters, but safety comes first, especially as the skies can become increasingly as aircraft arrive from across the world.

In between movements, the team tweet which aircraft are coming in using the @RIATairtraffic handle.

“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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