RIAT, organised to raise money for the RAF Charitable Trust, is the largest military air show in the world! Held at RAF Fairford, a USAF run airbase for shuttle landings, the event could not run without the support of the Air Cadets. This year there were over 500 from across the country helping out, a team, which 4 cadets from 2028 (Southam) Squadron were able to be a part of!
Arriving on the Tuesday, we were briefed and left to settle into what would become our home for the next week and what seemed like a lovely grassy field with (reasonably) clean tents perceptions were soon to change! Especially when you are positioned directly under the turning circle of low flying jets with their after burners blazing!
On the days leading up to the main show at the weekend, we were given tasks in our flights (Flt Sgt Mann, Cpl Van Kesteren and Cpl Dyer in Harrier, and Sgt Caves in Gauntlet) and left to make new friendships to last us the week and hopefully a lot longer. The tasks included: helping unload a few thousand deck chairs in jubilee gardens a designated crowd area; luggage handling; litter picking; helping at FRIAT (Friends of RIAT a special exclusive show day); park and view; and general duties. During this time there were also chances to visit the airfield to look at the huge static display of planes before the crowds arrived and visit the famous American burger bar: rumoured to have burgers the size of your head, and home to the drink forbidden to all cadets Mountain Dew.
Over these few days, the campsite, due to the constant traffic of boots and the unsympathetic weather conditions, started to become a mud bowl!
Build it and they will come.' Sure enough, after our aiding the preparation of the show, the masses arrived on the Saturday; future pilots half the size of the current ones and Anoraks' (those with cameras longer than the runway) alike. During the weekend, we were given more tasks such as: disabled parking, allowing some cadets to have a bit of road rage with the buggies; packing several thousand lunches for all those working at show side for the weekend and following days; the depressing job of reloading the thousands of deck chairs placed out only a few days earlier; and manning the crowd line where one doesn't expect to be explaining E II R to the United Arab Emirates display team security force an odd experience.
Our final full day, Monday, consisted of a F.O.D plod (litter picking) of the airfield to avoid blowing up any jet engines and getting to wave off the departing planes from the stands, Mexican style, and in our fluorescent jackets they occasionally waved back. Back at camp, it was time to pack, shine ourselves up for the final parade and then for most, prepare for the evening barbeque and disco, which was the perfect opportunity to have fun with those we had formed strong bonds with over the trip and relax after a long week's work.
Departing on the Tuesday, it was time to say goodbye to all our friends and the quagmire we had created, knowing that we had worked hard, had fun, and for some, stuffed our pockets with as many patches, stickers and freebies available from the many aircrews milling about at the show!
Cadet Sergeant Caves remarked , All in all, it was a great experience and one we recommend everyone to go on, as long as that doesn't hinder our chances of going again!'