Fourteen vintage aircraft from across the UK and Europe gathered at RAF Fairford for a special flypast on Friday 17 July watched by three veteran pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain – Sqn Ldrs Geoffrey Wellum and Tony Pickering, together with Fg Off Ken Wilkinson.
All eyes turned skywards as the salute was followed by more formation passes and a mock dog-fight featuring a Spanish Buchon and a Spitfire. Commentary by the Air Tattoo’s Ben Dunnell set the scene, with the script including contemporary quotes from Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, Air Officer Commanding RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, and veterans’ memories of the conflict.
Earlier in the day, the Air Tattoo got off to a flying start when model and tv presenter Jodie Kidd touched down at the Gloucestershire airbase in a twin seater Vickers Supermarine Spitfire T.9.Jodie said: “It’s amazing to come and launch the Air Tattoo. My family has had so many ties with the RAF – my great grandfather Lord Beaverbrook was Minister of Aircraft Production during the Second World War – so this is a great honour.”
Speaking of her flight in, she added: “That was unbelievable, beyond expectations! I had a fantastic pilot, Matt Jones, and we did a barrel roll, victory roll and a Cuban eight. To fly in in an aircraft that allowed me to experience aerobatics and feel how incredible this machine is was really special.
Greeting Jodie on arrival was Battle of Britain veteran and Spitfire pilot Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum, 93.
Also touching down was Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson, flying his own Eclipse EA.500 jet, with a special passenger on board. Bruce is Vice Patron of RIAT’s Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP), an organisation which enables disabled individuals to learn to fly, and his special guest was Kevin Ogilvie, one of two scholars who’ve been sponsored this year by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust.
This year’s Air Tattoo marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and the event’s operational theme, Securing the Skies – Past Present Future, is particularly appropriate with the Eurofighter Typhoon representing the ‘cutting edge’ of the RAF’s front line today, fulfilling the role carried out by the veteran aircraft of the Second World War. The airshow also marks the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) and honours an iconic warbird from the Cold War era, with the Vulcan XH558 making its final Air Tattoo appearances in its last-ever display season.