Given the extremely difficult position that the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises team have found themselves in, the announcement this morning that the 2021 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) has been cancelled will probably have come as little surprise to those who understand the huge amount of planning, organisation and work that goes into organising what is without doubt the best military air show event in the world.
My view and my hopes are that RIAT 2021 will go down as having been the last major event victim of the COVID pandemic. Even with the current UK lock-down having likely ended two or more months earlier than the planned date for RIAT 2020 logistics, safety requirements combined with uncertainty over international participations that are so important to an event such as RIAT make the decision the right one to have made.
Like everyone else, I am saddened for all those who work so hard to make an event like this happen, the thousands of visitors who look forward to it and those that see RIAT as the most important networking event on the calendar. We have no alternative now but to move on and to look forward to the 2022 Royal International Tattoo and see the announcement today as hopefully marking the end of an awful chapter and the beginning of what I am sure will be a very exciting one for RIAT 2022 and beyond.
Industry, the Royal Air Force and many international air forces from across the world that see the RIAT as an absolutely must attend event for whatever reason will be saddened at what I can only describe as the inevitability of the decision announced today. It is a sad day for young people for whom RIAT and other cancelled air show events this year such as the annual RAF Cosford air show provide an opportunity to get close, to feel and touch and understand what the military aerospace industry is about. It is a sad day for the senior management of RIAT and particularly for CEO Paul Atherton.
RIAT has a long tradition of emphasising not only of the excitement of seeing military aircraft fly or on the ground to look and touch in amazement but also the potential that events such as this offer to young people who may be looking to make their careers in military aerospace, understanding what the Royal Air Force does and the career opportunities that it offers and importantly, the potential of looking at careers within industry be that in engineering, technical or digital domains.
We must today though not just think of ourselves and the networking that we will be missing this year, we must also feel for the organisers, the US Air Force who year after year make the RAF Fairford base available, those who love competing for awards, the volunteers without whom RIAT could not occur along with those who just love showing their fantastic aircraft off to the public, those that fly aircraft and display and never forgetting of course those that are merely enthusiasts for what they have all lost.
Neither should we forget the regional economic benefits that RIAT brings to Gloucestershire, the additional employment that runs alongside an event such as this, on-site caterers, external hotels that provide beds, pubs that provide food, drink and relaxation together with all those that provide that on the public days of the offer their wares, souvenirs and collectables for which RIAT is one if not the highlights of their year and livelihoods. Each and every one of these will be saddened today by the loss of RIAT for a second year as of course, will be all those involved with and who benefit from the fantastic work done by the RAF Charitable Trust.
RIAT 2021, had it taken place, would have marked the 50th anniversary of this important event whose origins date back to an air show first held in 1971 at North Wield Airfield. Inspired by two air traffic controllers, Tim Prince and Paul Bowen, this modest event, organised by volunteers and originally held in support of the RAF Association has grown to an event which has a volunteer force 3,500 strong who bring with them a wealth of aviation and event-management experience and support that has allowed the Air Tattoo to be recognised today as the most successful event of its kind in the world.
Make no mistake – on July 15th to 18th next year RIAT WILL be back and I am sure that the 140,000 plus visitors that are likely to attend will be in for a treat.
Below is the announcement, a link for questions to the organisers together with an invitation link to support the parent RAF Charitable Trust from RIAT organisers – RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises:
It is with great regret that the Directors of RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises have taken the difficult decision to cancel this summer’s Royal International Air Tattoo, which was due to take place at RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire on July 16-18.
For the past six months, the team has been working tirelessly to devise a planning framework that would resolve the many complexities involved in staging such a large event, including how to deliver the vital international component of some 30 nations. However, the Board concluded that owing to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 during the crucial build up to, and delivery of, the world’s greatest airshow, there were simply too many risks associated with pressing ahead.
Whilst we understand that this decision will be met with disappointment by our many supporters, we know they recognise the responsibility we have, to all our stakeholders, to stage a safe and successful event.
We hope that taking the decision now will provide clarity to all those involved in the airshow, including our incredible army of volunteers, our loyal ticketholders, our valued suppliers, corporate guests and sponsors as well as the many military air arms from around the world who were hoping to join us in July to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We look forward and are determined to provide opportunities for this important milestone in the Air Tattoo’s history to be celebrated in 2021 including building on the incredible success of last summer’s Virtual Air Tattoo, details of which to follow.
In the meantime, we would like to thank you for your magnificent support, both for the airshow and for our parent charity the RAF Charitable Trust, and we very much look forward to seeing you all at what will be a spectacular Royal International Air Tattoo 2022.
For existing Ticket Holders – We are so disappointed that we have had to make this decision again and are, as always, extremely grateful for your stalwart and loyal support. The loss of two shows is a tough hit to us and rolling over your tickets to RIAT22 will be of enormous help to us, as so many of you did last year. If you purchased tickets for the 2020 Air Tattoo that were rolled over, or for the 2021 Air Tattoo, we will be in touch with you again before 26 February with full instructions on how to roll-over or claim a refund, and the process will be launched alongside that email.
As with most organisations during this lockdown period, our Customer Services Team is working remotely so we ask that you bear with us. You will no doubt have a number of questions so please click HERE to view a detailed Q&A list before contacting us. Finally should you be thinking of any other ways to support us, we have a great range of merchandise online including our 50th anniversary book, and any donations to our parent charity, the RAF Charitable Trust, will be very gratefully received via their Virgin Money Giving page HERE.
CHW (London – 16th February 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785