Born from a long tradition of seeing military aircraft at play, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is an annual event treasured by many. With the first air-show dating back to 1971, the RIAT holds a rich history and continues to appeal to many from aircraft enthusiasts and pilots alike. Despite its rich success and far-reaching appeal, COVID seems to have brought the event to a halt; a blow to many in the aerospace industry.
It was announced yesterday that the 2021 RIAT was cancelled and would be rescheduled to 2022.
“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.”
One of many of COVID’s victims, the RIAT had been looking forward to its original 2021 date after an arduous 2020 of on and off lockdowns. However, the respite for celebration turned out to be a little too hopeful as the announcement curbed the RIAT from taking place for another year. Originally inspired by two air-traffic controllers, Tim Prince and Paul Bowen, the RIAT holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Growing to an event with a 3,500-volunteer stronghold with the help of the RAF, the RIAT brings a military air experience to its fans unlike any other. The groundswell of support and admiration for the air-show spans a wide range of people from aerospace industry experts, pilots, air-show enthusiasts to members of the RAF. News of the cancellation, therefore, came as a blow as hundreds were left to face the bleak reality of lockdown. For years, the event has provided an outlet for communities to get together and understand the military aerospace industry and has inspired many to work towards a military or aerospace career. The absence of RIAT in 2021 not only blows away opportunities for networking and development, but it also impacts all the other sectors involved with the show.
Providing hundreds with on-site jobs in catering, hospitality and event management, the cancellation of RIAT puts many economic benefits on hold until 2022. While it comes as a significant blow to all those involved in the show and the fans, it is important not to forget how important the RIAT could have been to the economy and employment status of many. If the show had taken place it would mark RIAT’s 50th anniversary in the military aerospace industry; a feat that now has to celebrated virtually. Despite the RIAT’s efforts to create a COVID-secure show complete with social distancing and masks, the Board eventually concluded that it was still too high of a risk to continue on. The RIAT provided a statement to the press on the cancellation due to safety measures:
“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 air-show 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.”
While the RIAT’s cancellation comes as a disappointment to many, it is for the greater good of the health and safety of the community. Many are positive that 2022 will signal a return to a new normal, perhaps even a better normal, where communities will be able to meet up again and take part in events like the RIAT that showcase the military might of Britain and its rich history.
© Whitestone Chambers