cybersofa having gone for the full bells-n-whistles Friend of the Royal International Air Tattoo package, we were entitled to go along from Thursday to watch stuff fly in and practice. (Other Friends privileges include grandstand seats, left luggage facilities and loos that don't run out of paper and water an hour after the show opens.) Having Simon and Garfunkel commitments, I drove up on Friday morning to find driving rain and very little rehearsal going on. Still, the waterlogged runway made the Harrier's takeoff very impressive.
Highlights: the unbelievably big and frightening B-52 taking the runway sideways, four Hercs in formation, the Finnish Midnight Hawks (in summer in Finland, when the sun doesn't set, they have an airshow that starts in the evening and the display team performs at midnight), the French display team with their cheeky commentator (Ah, ze poetry of ze Patrouille de France!), and the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is fast becoming one of my favourite performers. The day ended with an hour-long D-Day reenactment, showing the many roles RAF and USAF aircraft played in the operation.
One of the nicest things about Fairford is the military and civilian aircraft on static display; they don't participate in the flying, but you can go and have a nose round them and chat to the crew. I talked to an American who had come with a Hercules on skis, used to deliver supplies to Arctic and Antarctic research stations, and some Dutch folks who were kind enough to give me a shopping bag with their squadron's tiger emblem on.
Being around on both Saturday and Sunday meant that I could watch the flying displays, check out the static park and hunt for cool freebies (a light-up Ministry of Defence pen and a Typhoon lanyard, whee) and merchandise (schwitters, a small package of value will come to you shortly).
It was something of a wild social scene for me this year, too; on Saturday I was able to meet up with fivemack and phoenicia, who can read each other's accounts of the day
We stayed till noon on Monday, too, necessitating an escort to and from the Friends of RIAT enclosure, to watch things fly out. This is a nice extra, as you see aircraft that didn't fly on the show days get airborne.
I had a good ride back, discovering that the last few miles of the M4 into London have a bus, taxi and motorcycle lane, which I had all to myself the whole way - a pleasant change after playing lorry tag all the way from Reading.
Now I note that the COT website has mysteriously not been switched to the new design as it should have been five days ago. I'm sure I'll find out all about that when I go back to work tomorrow...heigh ho.