RIAT: 405 Squadron goes to the world’s largest air show

News Article / August 26, 2019

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By Captain Nick Fortin

The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) began with a short flight from Newquay, England, to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucestershire, England.

The nine-person crew from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron, located at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia, could hardly fathom the spectacle they were about to see.

The crew members were Major Colin Bond, Major Daniel Macgregor, Major Michael MacSween, Major Guillaume Paquet, Captain Nick Fortin, Captain Luke Sellar, Chief Warrant Officer Dean Parsons, Master Warrant Officer Dave Pawulski‎ and Master Corporal Robert Hovey.

The first item on the agenda was an aerial photoshoot, where the CP-140M Aurora had to fly as slow as possible to match the top speed of the Skyvan photo aircraft. Once the crew was in close formation, they saw the back of the two-engine prop aircraft full of photographers, who spent their entire day snapping away at the jet aircraft, aerobatic teams, propeller aircraft and any other visiting aircraft fortunate enough to garner an aerial photoshoot.

Once the 20-minute photoshoot was complete, it was the Aurora’s turn to land. The tower controller had no hint of excitement in his voice, unlike the crew, who could see dozens of aircraft of all types and nationalities parked on the tarmac. The hundreds of photographers lining the airfield fence assured the crew that this was the place to be.

With more than 240 aircraft from 25 different nations taking part, the RIAT is the largest military airshow in the world. Hosted by RAF Fairford in England, this year’s show attracted 175,000 spectators from July 19 to 21, 2019. Themes celebrated this year included 70 years of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and 100 years of the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Both were celebrated with flypasts: the former with a variety of modern front-line fighters and tanker aircraft from NATO member countries and the latter with a Boeing 747 in BOAC livery accompanied by the Red Arrows, the RAF’s premier aerobatic jet team of BAE Hawks.

Other highlights of the show’s aerial displays included teams from France, Italy and Jordan.

Although the forecast called for essentially clear skies, all three days had a mix of sun and cloud, with heavy rain on the Friday morning. This meant the air displays had to restrict their vertical maneuvering. Nevertheless, the displays were nothing short of spectacular, ranging from single aerobatic prop aircrafts and large team displays to modern, fourth-generation high-performance supersonic jets and even transport aircraft, such as the Airbus A400M.

The crew members spent most of their days with the Aurora static display, as a constant stream of enthusiasts, air cadets and personnel from other nations, hoping to acquire some Aurora and 405 Squadron memorabilia, visited. Drawing on 405 Squadron’s birth in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, many conversations were struck up about the squadron’s history, its current roles flying the Aurora and the ongoing Block IV upgrades as a part of the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project.

The RCAF further supported the airshow with a CC-130J Hercules from 436 Transport Squadron, located at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. The RCAF’s commander, Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, was also in attendance, as the show provided the perfect platform for the commander to meet with peers from air forces around the world.

Planning the orderly departure of hundreds of aircraft is an art. From getting the fuel bowsers to the necessary aircraft to taxiing around the airfield without blocking other vehicles, the controllers at RAF Fairfield demonstrated a superlative level of skill and coordination on departure day. The crew of 405 Squadron waved at hundreds of photographers lining the airfield as they departed for the beautiful (and quiet, by comparison) Greenwood.


 

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