cybersofa and I agreed that the 2005 show was the best we'd had for several years, in terms of both the weather and the quality and quantity of flying. It was also a pleasure to hang out at various times with phoenicia, fivemack, elfasi and the previously elusive leopanthera.
Being on two wheels also made the airshow all the sweeter, as we breezed past the two-hour traffic queues. At the end of Sunday's show we were sent down a completely different route from Saturday's down some of the narrowest roads ever encountered, on which I spent some time stuck behind a coach containing the Red Arrows' ground crew, but we were still sitting down to dinner hours ahead of the cagers.
Even though we must have been ten times, there's always something new and the programme is always varied. My favourite item, I think, was the Chinook. I'm not a big helicopter fan as a rule, but it put on a fabulous show. It's easy to please the crowds in a Typhoon or an F-16 or a Honda Dream Team Sukhoi; to make a big fat workhorse of a chopper stand on its nose takes real class.
This year's must-see was the UK's first display at an air show by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). As the aircraft was only about ten feet long it was easy to lose sight of, despite its dayglo orange paint job. But while we were watching it, it was watching us with its onboard surveillance equipment and broadcasting its findings to large screens.
The UAV was performing as part of 'Eyes in the Sky', one of RIAT's big themes for the year. Plenty of surveillance and reconnaisance planes on the ground, including the E-3 Sentry, the lovely Canberra and Nimrod, and the quintessential spyplane: the U-2.
2005 was also a Tiger Meet year. The NATO Tiger Association was founded as a way to promote cooperation between squadrons from NATO countries. Any squadron whose crest features a tiger - and they're popular animals for military badges - can attend a Tiger Meet, and many decorate their aircraft for the occasion. This means stripey paint jobs to admire, and also cool merchandise.
One of the nicest things about Fairford is the hours you can spend wandering the static displays and talking to the crew of the aircraft, who have flown in from all over the world and are clearly enjoying their weekend just as much as the punters.
Since 2002, cybersofa and I have been forking out for the Friends of RIAT package. This gives us grandstand seats for the duration, in the company of serious hardcore plane nuts and their three-foot telephoto lenses, plus entry to the airfield on Friday and Monday.
Friday is a rehearsal day - this year we were privileged to see the Eurofighter Typhoon almost have a prang - and on Monday the participants fly home. As many planes spend their weekend in the static park and don't display, this is your chance to see them flying. Highlights included two F-15s, a German F-4 Phantom, two A-10 Warthogs and four MiG-21s.