Skip Navigation

History of the Trust

The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (RAFCT) came into being in January 2005 following a governance review of the RAF Benevolent Fund, which led to the reorganisation of the RAF Benevolent Fund Development Trust (RAFBFDT). The RAFCT has retained the objectives of the RAFBFDT although its scope has been widened to include the RAF family of charities as potential beneficiaries.

  • 3 July 1950 - Formation of RAFBFDT. Launched with a £30,000 grant from the Air Council with the express purpose of financing and assisting 'aerial pageants and displays' reminiscent of 1920s in order to promote the RAF.
  • Late 1960s - RAF 'at Home' days and airshows supported by RAFBFDT became effectively inactive.
  • 1971 - First annual Embassy Air Tattoo held at North Weald Aerodrome, organised by the Royal Air Force Association (RAFA), and sponsored by 'Wills' Tobacco Company.
  • 1975 - RAFA cancelled Air Tattoo following withdrawal of major sponsor.
  • 1975 - Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, wanted to re-establish military airshows as a way to raise money and awareness for RAFBF and to aid recruitment to the RAF, and stepped in.
  • 1976 - The first International Air Tattoo was held at RAF Greenham Common, organised by the RAFBFDT.
  • 1988 - Trading subsidiary, the RAF Benevolent Fund Enterprises formed to undertake primary air-show activity. Therefore, RAFBFDT became inactive again.
  • 18 February 1994 - The objectives of the Trust were widened to include charitable purposes which were of benefit to past and present members of the RAF.
  • 1996 - The International Air Tattoo became the Royal International Air Tattoo.
  • 2004 - Governance review recommended the RAFBF shift its focus away from airshows and the the seed was sown for another charity to take over the ownership of the world-famous Air Tattoo and its parent company.
  • Late 2004 - The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust - the new name for RAFBFDT - received Ministerial approval.
  • January 2005 - RAFCT and its trading company RAFCT Enterprises was established to continue the staging of the Royal International Air Tattoo amongst other revenue earning activities.
  • 2005 - The RAFCT Board of Trustees was established, chaired by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Knight. HRH The Duke of Kent agreed to be Patron of the RAF Charitable Trust.
  • July 2008 - Air Chief Marshal Sir John Cheshire succeeded Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Knight as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
  • 2011 - The Trustees agreed a new Mission Statement and the aims and objectives of the Trust were clarified and a new logo was adopted.
  • July 2013 - Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson took over as Chairman and President of RIAT from Air Chief Marshal Sir John Cheshire.
  • December 2017 - We became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
  • June 2020 - Air Marshal Phillip Osborn took over as Chairman of the RAFCT.

“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!”

Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message