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Message from RAFCTE CEO

Published: 20 Mar 2020


It is with immense regret and intense frustration that I have to announce the cancellation of RIAT20. This decision has not been taken lightly and a significant amount of work sits behind this course of action.  The growing COVID-19 crisis, which is worsening by the day, and the implications of which are becoming more profound, has led RAFCTE to conclude that the most prudent course of action is to suspend any further planning to deliver this massive event. 

We are dependent upon international support to make RIAT the success that it is; the guarantee of such support to deliver a viable airshow is now in sufficient doubt that to proceed would be irresponsible. Indeed, last year RIAT was supported by 245 aircraft from 25 nations; all of these now have reported cases of COVID-19 and are imposing national restrictions.  Service Chiefs and industry from around the world are a key element of the engagement opportunities RIAT offers and international restrictions will clearly have an impact on such attendance. We are also dependent on RAF support to deliver essential elements of the show; this support can no longer be reasonably guaranteed. 

We rely on the Air Cadet Organisation to provide around 1000 cadets from around the UK to fulfil key roles; this support could not be assumed given ongoing UK government advice. In addition, last year we also welcomed 75 cadets from around the world which can no longer be expected. The impact on our 1250 volunteers and their ability to support is likewise unquantifiable; similarly, the risk of key personnel becoming unavailable through infection cannot be assessed.  Safety is key to an event such as ours and we are dependent on the ability of our emergency services, both civil and military, to provide this support; this too can no longer be assumed. 

And most importantly, as we transition from the planning to delivery phase of this year's show, we are about to release funding to make this delivery reality; it would be imprudent and unwise to embark on a commitment to spend such significant sums when guaranteed delivery of RIAT20 is in such doubt. We must look forward and protect the viability of RAFCTE to deliver future RIATs - indeed next year is the 50th Anniversary of the airshow and we need to protect the viability, both financially and operationally, of being in a position to deliver a spectacular Golden Jubilee. 

I would like to thank all our partners: the RAF, USAF, industry, the world's air forces, our amazing volunteers and of course the public who turn up year on year to support our magnificent event.  We will be announcing in due course how those who have already bought tickets can be refunded or retain their tickets for next year's show. But rest assured, we remain focussed on continuing to deliver the world's greatest military airshow beyond these unprecedented times and supporting our parent charity the RAF Charitable Trust.

Paul Atherton
Chief Executive Officer

“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, Former Formula 1 Racing Driver

“Probably the most complete air show I’ve ever been to!”

Al Worden, Apollo 15 Astronaut

“This is THE best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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