Air Tattoo Turns Back Clock to Mark 50th Birthday

By Barrie Hudson - 1 June 2021


The Royal International Air Tattoo celebrated its 50th birthday at a Battle of Britain airfield in Essex.

  • Tim Prince, left, and Paul Atherton at the celebration - RIAT will return to Fairford next year

    Tim Prince, left, and Paul Atherton at the celebration - RIAT will return to Fairford next year

Today RAF Fairford is home to the air tattoo, which will next be held from July 15-17, 2022, but North Weald was its first home when it was established in 1971.

To mark the occasion a Jodel D140C Mousquetaire aircraft which took part in the inaugural airshow returned.

Tim Prince and fellow Boscombe Down air trafficker Paul Bowen were among the original Air Tattoo organising team, led by Sqn Ldr Jack Currie, and with the support of thousands of volunteers over the years they went on to establish the event as the world’s largest military airshow.

Tim was at North Weald to welcome back the Jodel and was joined by current Air Tattoo CEO Paul Atherton, early airshow volunteer Peter March, Air Tattoo 50 commemorative book author Ben Dunnell and RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises chairman Alan Smith.

Tim said: “Returning to the birthplace of what is now the Royal International Air Tattoo has been very special for me as I am reminded of all of the wonderful people who volunteered their time and energies and came together to stage Air Tattoo 71; whether civilian, RAF, Army, Royal Navy or Air Cadets, we all stepped into the unknown and staged an event that was to become world famous as the stage for the air forces of the world to meet annually in a spirit of friendship and cooperation whilst inspiring the next generation of aviators through the magic of flying.”

Paul Atherton said: “The Air Tattoo has an illustrious history and its success over the past 50 years is a result of the incredible support provided by the US Air Force, the Royal Air Force, international air arms and the aerospace industry. 

"That this support continues to this day is testament to the professionalism, passion and hard work of the organising team, many of whom are volunteers, who come together each year to stage this unique event.

“Of course, it’s hugely disappointing for everyone involved that the pandemic has meant we’ve been unable to stage an Air Tattoo in its 50th year but we plan to be back bigger and better in 2022 to open a new and exciting chapter in the event’s history.”

The Jodel D140C Mousquetaire, registration G-ATKX, was among 80 aircraft to take part in the first Air Tattoo, which was organised by the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA). 

Around 12,000 people attended in 1971 and what differentiated it from previous annual air displays held at the airfield was the involvement of aircraft from international air arms.

During the commemoration at North Weald, a special 50th anniversary cake was cut and Tim was treated to flight in the Jodel, piloted by owner Phillip Petitt.

The Royal International Air Tattoo is staged in support of the RAF Charitable Trust.   

The tattoo's website is

Your Comments

Be the first to comment on this article

Login or Register to post a comment on this article

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ