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  • Writer's pictureMike Lintott-Danks

The Royal International Air Tattoo 2022

The world’s greatest airshow returned after a two year break, due to COVID, with 266 aircraft and 1500 crew members descending on RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire for a celebration of aviation. The Royal International Air Tattoo saw the return of the Republic of Korea display team, The Black Eagles, and with a theme of Training aircraft this attracted a wide variety of participants from across the globe. We’ll bring you a flavour of some of the interesting aircraft, from both the flying display and static park at this years show.

Training aircraft

Portuguese TB30 Epsilon

The Forcea Aerea Portuguesa TB-30 Epsilon has been in service for over 30 years and is the lead in aircraft for student pilots for basic flight training, after being through the academy and flying the De Havilland Chipmunk. Based at Beja Esquadra 101 has 16 Epsilons out of the original 18 delivered to utilise in the basic training course. This was the first appearance at RIAT for two decades.

Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace PC21

The Swiss manufactured Pilatus PC-21 first took to the skies in 2002 and has become on of the most successful advanced training aircraft, with 230 examples in service throughout the world. The Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace brought three PC-21s to RIAT to perform in the flying display with their team ‘Mustang X-ray’. This relatively new team flew with a pair of PC-21s flying a tactical display, showcasing the various manoeuvres that the student pilot learns throughout the advanced flight training course. The PC-21s are based at BA 709 Cognac-Chateaubernard in western France with 17 aircraft available and another 9 on order.

SAAB Supporter

Flying with the Flyvevåbnet, Royal Danish Air Force, for over four decades the SAAB T-17 Supporter has been in the static park at previous Tattoos, but this is the first appearance of the display team Baby Blue at RIAT. Flying six T-17s in various formations and solo displays they showed this side-by-side seating trainer to its fullest. One of the aircraft was also specially painted to mark the 75th anniversary of the DH Chipmunk.

Irish Air Corp PC-9M

The last appearance of the Irish Air Corp Silver Swallows display team at RIAT was over 25 years ago, when they graced the skies above Gloucestershire with their Fouga Magister. Soon after their appearance they dispanded but reformed this year with four Pilatus PC-9Ms to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Irish Air Corp. Its great to see another different display team at the Air Tattoo. The Pilatus PC-9M came into service with the IAC in 2004 and has a multitude of roles including Ab Initio, Advanced & Instructor Pilot Training and Close Air Support.

The Republic of Korean Air Force Black Eagles

The Republic of Korean Air Force Black Eagles display team returned to RIAT after their last appearance a decade ago in 2012. Flying the KAI T-50B Golden Eagle afterburning advanced trainer, the Black Eagles showed the power and manoeuvrability of this lightweight trainer/fighter attack aircraft. Their close formation manoeuvres, creation of the South Korean flag in the sky above Fairford and their Tornado landing brought the crowds out of the shade and into the searing temperatures on the airfield.



A rare aircraft to see flying these days is the Antonov AN-30 ‘Clank’. The Forțele Aeriene Române, Romanian Air Force, brought one of their two AN-30s to RIAT for the static park. The AN-30 first flew in 1967 with the aircraft on display being delivered to the Romanian Air Force in 1980. The aircraft was originally designed for aerial mapping and reconnaissance but is mainly used as part of the Open Skies Treaty today.

PZL M-28 Estonian

A first appearance at the Air Tattoo was the Estonian Air Force PZL M-28 Skytruck. The Skytruck is one of two M28s donated by the USA and were delivered in 2019. They replaced the venerable An-2s still in service with the Estonian Air Force. The aircraft are in service with 1.Eskadrill/Lennugrupp (Composite Flight Wing) at Ämari air base.

‘In 2015, the An-2s were due to be replaced by two Short C-23 Sherpa transport aircraft that were stored at AMARG and were offered free of charge by the USA. The decision to reject the Sherpa was made after internal investigations showed that this type of aircraft did not meet the air force's needs. Especially the lack of VSTOL capability - to land and take off from very small grass fields anywhere in Estonia (as the An-2 can do) - contributed to the decision.’ Scramble 2019

Luftwaffe A340

Although having been in service with the Luftwaffe since 2011, this was the first time the Luftwaffe Airbus A340 had appeared at the Air Tattoo. 16+02 was originally delivered to Lufthansa 24 years ago and after conversion it has been utlised by the Luftwaffe for:

·        VIP transport of government officials, members of parliament and high-ranking Bundeswehr officers

·        transport of Bundeswehr personnel and materiel

·        humanitarian aid and disaster relief flights, evacuation of civilians

·        MedEvac flights


With the 75th anniversary of the USAF being celebrated at the Air Tattoo it was a coup to have one of the most important aircraft in the USAF inventory at the show in the shape of the Boeing E-4B Nightwatch.

‘The E-4B serves as the National Airborne Operations Centre and is a key component of the National Military Command System for the President, the Secretary of Defence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command and control centres, the aircraft provides a highly survivable command, control and communications centre to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities. The conduct of E-4B operations encompasses all phases of the threat spectrum. Additionally, the E-4B provides outside the continental United States travel support for the Secretary of Defence and his staff to ensure Title 10 command and control connectivity.’

‘The main deck is divided into six functional areas: a command work area, conference room, briefing room, an operations team work area, communications area and rest area. An E-4B may include seating for up to 112 people, including a joint-service operations team, Air Force flight crew, maintenance and security component, communications team and selected augmentees.

The E-4B is protected against the effects of electromagnetic pulse and has an electrical system designed to support advanced electronics and a wide variety of communications equipment. An advanced satellite communications system provides worldwide communication for senior leaders through the airborne operations centre. Other improvements include nuclear and thermal effects shielding, acoustic control, an improved technical control facility and an upgraded air-conditioning system for cooling electrical components.

To provide direct support to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the JCS, at least one E-4B NAOC is always on 24-hour alert, 7-days a week, with a global watch team at one of many selected bases throughout the world.’

Lithuanian Air Force AS-365 N3+ Dauphin

A debutant in the static display was the Lithuanian Air Force AS365 N3+ Dauphin Search and Rescue Helicopter. The Dauphin first flew in 1975 and has been used for a variety of missions in both the civilian and military markets. Its role with SAR is most significant within the US Coast Guard where it is known as the HH-65 Dolphin. The USCG utilise it for homeland security patrols, cargodrug interdictionice breaking, military readiness, pollution control, and search and rescue missions.

In addition to their search and rescue duties, the Lithuanian Air Force’s AS365 N3 Dauphins is be available for tasks such as observing the effects of drought and floods, tracking crop conditions and plant disease, as well as the monitoring of marine pollution and other environmental dangers.

Other noteworthy aircraft at RIAT 2022 were the Royal Air Force of Oman with their Airbus C-295MPA Persuader maritime patrol aircraft, Top Aces Douglas A-4N Skyhawk, Hungarian Air Force Mi-24P and the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight bringing three generations of SAAB aircraft, including the splinter camo SK-37 Viggen.

It was great to be back at the greatest air show in the world. We look forward to returning in 2023.

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