Royal International Air Tattoo

Every year, Air Cadets from across the country volunteer at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford. Here is one cadet’s account of her time RIAT and it turns out it’s not just a free airshow ticket!

“I left 332 (High Wycombe) Squadron at 0900 on Wednesday morning on the 3-hour coach journey to RAF Fairford. When we arrived we were issued with passes that allowed us access in and out of the American-used RAF base and the various zones inside it. Once we were issued with ID we had a briefing about the site we were staying on and basic rules and codes of conduct around the base. This was actually extremely difficult as the display teams including the Red Arrows were practicing their display routines above us and did almost every hour of the day that we stayed there. I’m not complaining, it was like a 24-hour air display just for us which was really amazing. We were assigned our sections for the week – I was assigned to Lightning Flight (after the new Lightning aircraft). There were approximately 50 Flights of about 15 cadets on base, which with the 100 or so staff added up to a lot of people. We unpacked our kit and reassembled into our Flights before taking a short hike to the mess for a much needed dinner.

Each day flights were assigned tasks. Our Flight Commanders were briefed on meal times and told what activities or tasks our Flight had been assigned that day. Once they had been told, the Flight Commanders would come back and brief our flight for the day ahead and we would all get to work soon after. Each day consisted of about 3 tasks, some were really amazing opportunities and a privilege to complete and some were just standard tasks but I enjoyed each and every one. Lightning Flight was very lucky with an amazing set of tasks throughout the week. Some of these included meeting Prince Charles at the Techno Zone and telling him about the Air Cadet Organisation and the air show itself which I was lucky enough to do. I also met celebrities like Alan Carr, Paula Radcliffe and Nicola Adams. We also got to assist the Red Arrows and other air display teams from around the world and talk to them, get to know them and get them to sign our shirts and posters, and of course, take selfies with them! Other tasks included things like making packed lunches for the pilots and volunteer staff. Lightning Flight teamed up with a few others to make about 3000 sandwiches in just a few short hours, which sounds tiresome but being Air Cadets we soon made it into a competition to see which Flight could make and stack 30 lunches in 2 minutes first. It was Lightning Flight who won, of course.

Sometimes Flights would have a ‘task off’ where we could just relax out for a few hours. We managed to go around the air show about 3 times in total. It was absolutely amazing how we got to talk to all of the pilots of the planes and helicopters and sit inside to learn about the controls and mechanics. On one of the days that we went around the air show, we managed to get inside 6 different aircraft which included the Lynx, Merlin and some reconnaissance aircraft. We also were given lots of free posters, key chains, t-shirts, RAF patches and loads more when we showed an interest in the aircraft that the people on the stalls or the pilots were telling us about. And we even got to fly in flight simulators which was so cool and felt just like flying the real thing.

All in all, the Royal International Air Tattoo was such an amazing experience that I would not have experienced in so much depth if I was not an Air Cadet. The Air Cadet Organisation is one for many opportunities like this that offers you the  chance to experience things like the Air Tattoo to the max, and I really hope I get a place to go again next year.”