We know that you're all keen to know about our plans for the 2020 Airshow. Waiting for aircraft confirmations can be a tiring process. So we thought we would catch up with our new Head of Air Operations Peter Reoch to ask him about how he and his team are preparing for this year's show.
How is the process in getting aircraft for RIAT 2020 going?
The invitation of international air arms began in earnest back in September 2019 when the formal invitations were sent out. This was then followed by visits to embassies in London to meet with Military Attachés to seek their feedback on RIAT 2019 and brief them on the exciting plans for this year's show. When I joined the team in January this work had already been completed and I am indebted to my predecessor Tom, the Air Operations and the Guest Relations teams for their work up to this point. We are now at the stage of communicating with some Air Arms to explore the feasibility of their participation and receiving official letters from others confirming their attendance. This is an ongoing process from now until the show itself.
Whilst communicating with the Defence Attachés and Airshow Tasking Offices (for those Air Arms who have them) we of course try to encourage them to send the aircraft on our wishlist, based on the annual themes or any special opportunities which may arise. However, we are always extremely grateful for all the contributions from the world's Air Arms which make the Air Tattoo the unique event it is! At this early stage I think we are in a strong position for another good show, with a few unique participation possibilities being explored. As you may have noticed from the Latest Updates section on the website, following a request from my colleagues in the marketing department, the Air Ops team and I will be providing a "look behind the scenes" in the weekly updates to share the excitement as we approach the show.
How will this year's themes be represented at RIAT?
Both of this year's key themes have already attracted some positive discussions with Air Arms looking to provide appropriate aircraft to the show. Starting with the Fast Jet Combat Air Power theme; we already have the Danish F-16 & Swiss F/A-18C confirmed for the flying display to kick start the theme. Our aspiration is to showcase as many fighter types in the flying display and also in the static display. This theme also includes our salute back to the fighter pilots of the past in this 80th Anniversary year of the Battle of Britain.
We are currently thinking about how we mark this at RIAT 2020. For the enthusiasts, some of the rarer aircraft will be coming as part of the Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) theme. We are aiming to showcase the full spectrum of ISR aircraft, and one of the highlights will be the hopeful attendance of the Royal Air Force's newest aircraft type - the Boeing P-8A Poseidon which will strengthen Britain's maritime air capability. I think the majority of ISR aircraft will be exhibited in the static display, but we will of course be investigating how we can also showcase ISR in the skies over the weekend.
What are your dream aircraft participants for RIAT?
For 2020 my dream for the ISR theme is a line-up of various Airborne Early Warning aircraft together in the static display, such as the E-7 Wedgetail, Embraer R-99 and SAAB Argus. Some other personal 'targets' for the future include appearances of jets such as the Skyhawk, F-5 and AMX before they disappear from our skies. Letting my imagination run wild, I'd love to see a Mi-26 'Halo' at the airshow. Having seen one at the Ukrainian State Aviation Museum last year, the helicopters size has to be seen to be believed! And for sheer 'coolness' I'd love to see a ShinMaywa US-2 amphibian. However, when we will ever to able to achieve this remains to be seen!
What was your previous involvement in the show and do you have any standout RIAT memories?
I'm quite lucky having seen the Air Tattoo from many angles; as a visitor, a FRIAT Member, a participant, a volunteer and in July 2020 I will see the show from a whole new angle as a member of permanent staff. There are far too many happy memories to recall now, but a highlight of RIAT 2013 (which I participated at during my time working for Air Atlantique) was sat next to our Meteor NF11 in the static display watching the Red Arrows flypast with the British Airways A380. On the Monday, we had a snag with our jet which meant we were the last aircraft to leave Fairford that afternoon and got a personal farewell from Tim Prince. A great weekend!
As well as attracting Aircraft Participation, what else have you been involved with in your first month in the role?
With around 40 members of staff working at Douglas Bader House, learning everyone's names was a task in itself! It's been really interesting to see how much interdepartmental cooperation is required to overcome the intricacies of the Air Tattoo, especially with some of the layout changes required for RIAT 2020. It has already become very clear to me that everyone who works here has a passion for ensuring all our visitors have the best Air Tattoo experience possible and its very much a team effort across the organisation, particularly with our colleagues in Guest Relations, to attract the world's Air Arms to Fairford and encourage them to bring the aircraft that enthusiasts want to see.
There is also a great deal of work going on in my department to look at visitor feedback from 2019, produced by our marketing colleagues, and one area we're focusing on is ensuring that the flying display on Saturday and Sunday is as similar as possible. Also, with next year being the Air Tattoo 50th Anniversary, I have already been involved in discussions on how we might want to celebrate this amazing achievement with a cross-company working group established. Exciting times ahead..!