Qioptiq logo Raytheon Global MilSatCom

Virtual Air Tattoo Reminder – Not to Be Missed! By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.





COVID-19 may have impacted on all of our lives both professionally and socially and one of the sad facts has been that all organised major events that had been planned for summer 2020 have had to be cancelled. The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) which has been held every year since 1985 at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire is but one of many important STEM and family related events, originally due to be held this weekend, that has fallen victim to the lockdown.

Always my own favourite professional military air related event on the annual calendar the RAF Charitable Trust and its trading company RAFCT Enterprises which is responsible for organising RIAT annually have worked extremely hard over the past three months to organise the VIRTUAL AIR TATTOO this coming weekend. Planned for professionals, enthusiasts and as RIAT has always done in the past, for young people looking for example at the world of military aerospace as a potential future career, this is a not to be missed event.

Air Forces representing more than 20 countries from around the world will be taking part at this very special event which is, as I have mentioned above, being organised by the team behind the Royal International Air Tattoo and supported by the Royal Air Force. Being held on the same weekend that had been scheduled for the actual air show to be held, the Virtual Air Tattoo is a free-to-view, live-streamed event that will take place from 11am to 3pm on Saturday July 18 and Sunday July 19. 

Hosted by Air Tattoo commentators and aviation experts Ben Dunnell and Mark Manwaring and featuring special welcome messages from the well-known actor Sir David Jason and from the TV star, Carol Vorderman, the Virtual Air Tattoo will give its many thousands of viewers a flavour of the real event that had been planned for 2020 and will include dramatic virtual flying displays, pilot interviews, special guests and unique aircraft footage.

Highlights include:

  • Displays created by Virtual Airshows, performed by Europe’s top flight simulator pilots including the Virtual Red Arrows and Swiss, French and Italian teams.
  • Footage from some of the most exciting Air Tattoo participants, including 2019 displays by the MiG-21 Lancer & EAV-8 Harrier.
  • Live interviews with the Red Arrows as well as pilots from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and RAF Typhoon Display Team. 
  • Unique behind-the-scenes footage of military aviation including a flight on a recent Royal Air Force air-to-air refuelling mission.
  • Messages, interviews and special aircraft tours courtesy of participating international aircrew.

And with tickets for next year’s 50th anniversary Royal International Ait Tattoo also going on sale this weekend, the Virtual Air Tattoo will take a look back at some of the event’s aviation highlights since it was first stage in 1971. 

Air Forces from all four corners of the globe will take part, from Austria to Australia, featuring aircraft they had hoped to send to the Air Tattoo in 2020. There will also be some special surprises for aviation enthusiasts including the ‘participation’ of two Air Forces who will be represented for the first time ever at an Air Tattoo – albeit virtually! Video support for the Virtual Air Tattoo has also come from aerospace industry, including BAE Systems, Leonardo, Airbus, Northrop Grumman, MBDA, QinetiQ and Rolls-Royce, with additional help from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other long-term sponsors.

Whilst the Air Tattoo will deliver the main broadcast, the RAF will host two additional channels, one providing extended footage of RAF content featured in the Virtual Air Tattoo and the other,  broadcast live on Twitch, hosted by the RAF’s Video Gaming and Esports Association who will be staging a number of socially-distanced e-sport competitions.   

Working with PlanesTV, the programme will be hosted from a live studio and, as well as featuring special guests, the show will invite viewers’ questions via social media, making the Virtual Air Tattoo a truly interactive experience. 

Air Tattoo Chief Executive Paul Atherton said: “The Royal Air Force has been a great partner for the virtual Air Tattoo as they are for the Royal International Air Tattoo each year.  Their support in providing behind-the-scenes access to, and footage of, its aircraft, facilities and people has been pivotal and we now look forward to sharing this content with our online visitors.  We are confident that this, coupled with the incredible material created by our international friends and the virtual world of air displays will wow our audiences.”

In welcoming the Virtual Air Tattoo this coming week-end, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, said:

“I am delighted the Royal Air Force has joined forces with RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises to deliver a trailblazing Virtual Air Tattoo. We look forward to exhilarating displays from our allies around the world, getting behind the scenes with the RAF and our industry partners as we showcase our talent, and sharing special moments from previous Air Tattoos as we approach the events 50th anniversary next year.”

During the event, viewers will have the opportunity to donate to the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, the Air Tattoo’s parent charity. Text TRUST to 70490 to donate £5 (Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message). Also through Virgin Money Giving: https://bit.ly/rafcharitable.

Full details of how to view the Virtual Air Tattoo can be found on the Royal International Air Tattoo website.


CHW (London – 17th of July 2020)  

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon



Back to article list