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Already for the sixth time, the Aviation PhotoCrew joined forces with the organization of the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, to organize three days of almost non-stop photoflying during the arrival days of RIAT. Detailed preparation together with Pink Skyvan’s Chief Pilot, the FAA, ATC, Cotswold Airport, many of the participating Air Forces and aircrews and of course the good people of RIAT, resulted in just shy of 30 join-ups in two days, as unfortunately we had to cancel our Friday program due to inclement weather. Safety first!
Every join-up is a highlight and with the wide variety of aircraft from 15 different countries, with special markings such as a spectacular Luftwaffe Tornado of AKG51 Immelmann and Eurofighter of JG71 Richthofen, Danish 800 years anniversary Viper, Belgian D-Day F-16s but also specific RIAT markings like on the Jordanian Hercules and Spanish Harriers.
Harriers had been on our wish list for a very long time. We have been in contact with the Yeovilton Air Day and RIAT for several years and with one of our team-members being very well connected with the Spanish armed forces, we were able to organize a lengthy and well executed join-up. Surprisingly enough, the Harriers actually had a hard time matching our airspeed, but were expertly flown by their Spanish Navy pilots, with their nozzles partly turned downwards!
Other unique photo-opportunities were one-off mixed formations, like the aforementioned Luftwaffe specials and the Blades with an Airbus A400; lots of prop-blur to be achieved during that join-up! Both the Red Arrows as well as Frecce Tricolori did special formations briefed beforehand, to capitalize on the special characteristics of the Skyvan as photo-platform.
Some of the pilots were very enthusiastic about either participating in RIAT, joining-up with the Skyvan and have their picture taken, or both. One great example was the crew of the F-15E Strike Eagle from Lakenheath who were very excited and executed an impressive join-up, enabling us to take pictures of their impressive aircraft from any angle thinkable. Like several other crews, they brought their squadron flag as a personal touch.
Of course, there were disappointments as well. We had join-ups approved and briefed with the Turkish Phantoms and Romanian Lancers, but in the end it didn’t work-out. Unfortunately, it is very hard to time join-ups with these Cold War jets that have to travel far to make it all the way to England. Minor technical issues during fuel-stops, ATC restrictions due to missed slot-times and other restrictions meant we missed them both. But that’s aviation and it only motivates us (and them) to make it happen on a next occasion!
So all in all, another successful RIAT project was finalized and after returning home, we could look back at gigabytes of unique and beautiful pictures of some 30 different join-ups with a huge variety of different aircraft, including transports, fighter jets, helicopters and patrol aircraft, from Asia, Europe and North-America. All photographers were very happy, as were the flight-crews and airshow organization when they received our pictures!
Of course the Aviation PhotoCrew will return to the Air Tattoo in 2020, and you are invited to join us if you have an interest in catching some highly unusual aircraft. We will have the ‘big’ arrivals project on offer. Send a short email to to receive all the information.

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