Air Tattoo (GB)
RiAT is the Royal International Air Tattoo. Created in 1971, RIAT has over time become the largest military aviation meeting. It is now a must for any aviation enthusiast. It drains between 150 and 170,000 people over a weekend. A minimum of preparation is therefore necessary to succeed in your journey.
Preparing for your trip
The first step is to take care of your accommodation. There are campsites nearby that are ready to welcome you. If you’re looking for a hotel or a B-B, you should do it very early, almost as soon as the date is announced. The longer you wait, the more you will have to think about getting away to find good value for money.
RiAT takes place at Fairford, Gloucestershire. two hours west of London. If you are coming by ferry from Dover, plan between 3 and 4 hours drive as you will have to circumnavigate London from the south by taking the M25 which is often congested.
Step two: which tickets to buy. The ticket offer is rich. It can lose the neophyte and the price differences are significant. To put it simply:
-MACH 3: A 6-day package that allows you to access the RIAT website from Wednesday to Monday. You will also have access to the grandstand and especially to the highest seat rows. It will cost you about 300 euros. For this price you will be entitled to the program for free and other goodies
-MACH 2: A 4-day package, Friday to Monday. For the grandstand, it will be the seats in the middle rows. Expect about 270 euros.
-MACH 1: A two-day package on Saturday and Sunday. You will only be entitled to the lowest rows of the grandstand for a budget of 250 euros.
The number of seats in the stands is by definition limited. These 3 packages are certainly expensive but they leave, especially the MACH 3 which is the most sought after. Indeed, on the podium, desepower is that one does not get up to photograph the planes. Only the last row of the top can afford it… The risk is to find yourself stuck between two fanatics with their 500mm F/4. not always easy to manage.
Otherwise you can buy the tickets by the day. Admission costs around 50 euros per day for Friday, Saturday or Sunday. For Wednesday and Thursday, it will be what is called a “Park and view” access. The ticket costs just under 20 euros. You will not have access to static and exhibitors.
The location is located at the edge of the runway, at the threshold of the runway. It is possible to make the arrivals on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The interest is to be able to photograph on landing all the planes that will remain on static over the weekend. On Friday you will attend the last arrivals and rehearsals of the meeting. Monday is also an opportunity to make the departures.
Getting to the meeting
As for the biggest meeting in Europe, a piece of advice that applies to all meetings: arrive early. The car parks open at 6am every day and access to the site is from 7.30am. Depending on where you come from, you will be directed to one of the many car parks. The access roads are narrow and easily congested.
Attend the meeting
Once you enter the site, don’t waste a moment and head straight to the location you’ve spotted. You will understand, you need to know in advance where you will be for the day. Depending on the route you have taken to arrive, you will arrive in the yellow, red, blue, green (East to Ouste) zone. The green zone only opens on Saturdays and Sundays. Places are expensive, especially on the blue zone which is the most central. And distances are important, so you’ll definitely have to walk a quick step to find a good location.
I usually position myself in the Green Zone, on the edge of the Blue Zone. The Red Zone is closer to the central axis and is well positioned for take-offs but you will have the disadvantage of having in the background of all your photos a red “BAE Systems” banner of the most beautiful decorative effect.
Discover the static
Once well placed, it’s time to discover the static. If you’re alone, try to find a group of cool spotters who will take a look at your seat. You are on English meeting, so normally no risk of having your place taken by others in your absence. The presence of many foreigners, however, requires nuance this message. If there are more than one of you, you can plan to rotate between you.
Get some good shoes and don’t flinch. From one end of the static to the other, it should take more than an hour. The track is 3046 meters long. It is the only runway in the United Kingdom that was capable of receiving NASA’s space shuttle.
On the static, it is in total nearly a hundred planes that you can admire. About 30 countries are represented each year, ranging from Australia, Japan, Qatar, Jordan to Ukraine and of course the USA. If you come on two days or more, it’s almost worth spending a good half day on static, even if you sacrifice the meeting a little. You will have the opportunity to take full advantage of all the shops and to stock up on souvenirs and goodies.
The RIAT is the meeting to be made because of its excess and the diversity of aircraft presented in flight and on the ground. Like any big event that draws a huge crowd, the secret to success is to prepare it well and this as early as possible. It’s always impressive the first time we’ve been to this meeting, but you’ll bet you’ll come back…