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Turning Back the Clock to Mark 50th Birthday

Published: 01 Jun 2021


A Battle of Britain airfield in Essex provided the setting yesterday (May 31) for a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal International Air Tattoo.

North Weald airfield was the Air Tattoo's first home when it was established in 1971 and to mark the occasion an aircraft that took part in the inaugural airshow returned to join the celebration.

The Jodel D140C Mousquetaire, registration G-ATKX, was among 80 aircraft to take part in the first Air Tattoo, which was organised by the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA). Around 12,000 people attended in 1971 and what differentiated it from previous annual air displays held at the airfield was the involvement of aircraft from international air arms. 

Tim Prince and fellow Boscombe Down air trafficker Paul Bowen were among the original Air Tattoo organising team, led by Sqn Ldr Jack Currie, and with the support of thousands of volunteers over the years, they went on to establish the event as the world's largest military airshow. 

Tim was at North Weald to welcome back the Jodel and he was joined by the Air Tattoo's current CEO Paul Atherton; one of the airshow's first volunteers Peter March; author of 'Air Tattoo 50' Ben Dunnell; and Alan Smith, Chairman of RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises. During the event, a special 50th anniversary cake was cut and Tim was treated to flight in the Jodel, piloted by owner Phillip Petitt.

Tim said: "Returning to the birthplace of what is now the Royal International Air Tattoo has been very special for me as I am reminded of all of the wonderful people who volunteered their time and energies and came together to stage Air Tattoo 71; whether civilian, RAF, Army, Royal Navy or Air Cadets we all stepped into the unknown and staged an event that was to become world famous as the stage for the air forces of the world to meet annually in a spirit of friendship and cooperation whilst inspiring the next generation of aviators through the magic of flying."

Paul Atherton said: "The Air Tattoo has an illustrious history and its success over the past 50 years is a result of the incredible support provided by the US Air Force, the Royal Air Force, international air arms and the aerospace industry. That this support continues to this day is testament to the professionalism, passion and hard work of the organising team, many of whom are volunteers, who come together each year to stage this unique event.

"Of course, it's hugely disappointing for everyone involved that the pandemic has meant we've been unable to stage an Air Tattoo in its 50th year but we plan to be back bigger and better in 2022 to open a new and exciting chapter in the event's history."

The Royal International Air Tattoo, which is staged in support of the RAF Charitable Trust, will take place at RAF Fairford on July 15-17, 2022.                                                                                                                            

“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

“Text TRUST to 70490 to donate £5!”

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