Published: 18 Nov 2020 updated: 23 Nov 2020
As well as welcoming thousands of visitors to the Air Tattoo, the airshow entertains hundreds of special guests in the Patron's Pavilion. As Host Support Team Operations Manager Andy Webster explains, it's important these influential guests leave RAF Fairford having enjoyed a wonderful experience . . .
Name: Mr Andy Webster.
Lives: Hedge End, Hampshire.
Occupation: Area Air Traffic Controller for NATS.
Years volunteered: RIAT 2020 would have been my 24th RIAT.
RIAT role: Host Support Team (HST) Operations Manager.
For my first two RIATs, I was the deputy Personal Staff Officer (PSO) Team Manager and then became the PSO Team Manager and have remained in that role ever since. The PSO Team was renamed the Host Support Team (HST) several years ago.
The HST forms part of Guest Management and is located in the office complex of Patron's Pavilion. Guest Management are responsible for organising the various VIP events that take place, coordinating the efficient running of Patron's Pavilion and looking after the invited VIP guests. These VIP guests are UK and foreign Royalty, senior UK and foreign military, Heads of Industry and Celebrities. The VIP guests need hosting to ensure that they enjoy their RIAT experience and not only leave with fond memories but, as importantly, a desire to continue to provide support to the Airshow. All our guests are influential in supporting RIAT, but the Military Air Chiefs authorise their country's aircraft to participate in the static park and flying display.
Now all guests need a friendly and knowledgeable host, and this is where the HST plays it part in the overall success of RIAT. The hosts are the Chairman of RIAT, RAFCT and RAFCTE, supported by the Trustees, Directors, Patron, Vice Patrons and Vice Presidents. The role of the HST, which comprises three office staff, two dedicated escorts and 16 drivers, is to organise the individual programmes and transport requirements to ensure that the hosts are always in the right place, at the right time to meet with the VIPs. In order to achieve our aims, the HST interacts with many teams over the course of the Show. Either directly, because we need something from them, such as MT for our fleet of vehicles. Or, depending on the needs of the Guests, Sponsors or Hosts, to organise or facilitate visits. We are most likely to contact you at short notice to ask you to find time in your busy schedule to meet a VIP. Along with the Hosts, we are always extremely grateful for your help and understanding.
I suspect that what keeps me coming back, is the same reason for many of the volunteers, the team spirit and camaraderie. Knowing that you rarely get a 'no', when you ask for help, but what you do get is 'let's see how we can help you'; if only we had more of that in our daily lives. Also, that sense of achievement on the Monday, you have been part of something special that has achieved so much, for the guests, the public and the charity. Happy to have overcome the challenges of the show, as there are always problems to solve, and part of fun of RIAT is solving those problems with a great bunch of permanent staff and volunteers.
Everyone plays their part in putting on the World's Greatest Air Show and, if I wasn't part of the HST, I would love to be part of the Air Traffic Control team, to be involved in putting on a safe and exciting air display. Unfortunately, I don't have the right ATC licence to do so, but I'd give it a go - what could possibly go wrong? Hope to see you all in July 2021 where once again, we will be part of the unique and world-renowned organisation that is RIAT.