OF THE CAS AIR POWER CONFERENCE, RIAT, FARNBOROUGH AND MAHAT MAHATMA GANDHI
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
09 Jul 14. Ahead of attending the CAS Air Power Conference, the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Air Show over the following eight days this will be the last commentary from me until Thursday of next week.
True I think to say that July is in the UK a time when the most important air show and military conference events take place. I am not forgetting the hugely important bi-annual DSEi (Defence Security and Equipment International) show but for the most part the majority of military and industry events take place before the reporting season and summer holidays start.
Last weekend I was honoured to be a guest at RAF Waddington for what was to be an excellent day that for me was made even better by a formidable flying display of preserved Hawker Hunters, BAC Canberra, Avro Vulcan, RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfires and the Avro Lancaster together with the superb Red Arrows, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A 18. All gave absolutely terrific displays but if I had been asked to give a prize this year it would have been to present equal firsts to the remarkable displays given by the RAF Chinook helicopter, the Dutch owned and preserved Hawker Hunter and of course, the Avro Vulcan.
Networking is an important part of airshow events for business
professionals, military and professional alike. The Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force all hold their respective conference events during late June and July and today it is the turn of Royal Air Force to discuss and debate the various elements and issues that relate to air power. Attended by senior military, politicians, industry and a great many senior members of foreign air forces the CAS Air Power Conference is for me perhaps the most important conference event that I attend.
Over its three days, two of which are open to the public, the Royal International Air Tattoo which is held each year at RAF Fairford in the heart of Gloucestershire and where air traffic restrictions in term of how aircraft can perform in displays is much less aggressive than Farnborough is a hugely important event on the calendar for military, political and defence industry professionals. Attended this year by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales RIAT not only brings the concept of military aircraft and air power alive to those that attend it also through features such as the Techno Zone, an interactive area sponsored by Lockheed Martin attempts to bring engineering and technology to life in the hope of attracting more youngsters to become engineers. Skills, skill shortages and skills retention in the aerospace industry are a hugely important issue for military and industry alike.
Gaining its ‘Royal’ title in 1996 ‘RIAT’ is run and staged by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. It is a show that has evolved over many years and it is recognised by military and industry professionals not only as a pleasure to attend but also one of the most important events on the calendar. Having stood down after many years as Chairman and President of RIAT last year Air Chief Marshal Sir John Cheshire who I have had the great pleasure of knowing for many years has handed over Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson.
The hope is that apart from a great many military aircraft displays this years’ RIAT displays will see the first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning ll aircraft demonstrate its prowess. At this stage there remains a degree of uncertainty but as an eternal optimist and strong believer that where there is a will there is a way I suspect that we will see the aircraft display at some stage of the event.
RIAT is to me a spectacular event and hugely important event in my calendar and one that I would not miss for the world. Unlike DSEi, the single most important trade show for the defence industry