RIAT is the Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s best and largest military airshow, held at RAF Fairford in the UK every year in July. Fairford is also the stopover base for U-2s being ferried between the US and the deployment locations in the Near and Middle East.

So when I learned that a two-plane ferry was scheduled for the week after RIAT this year, it seemed natural to try and persuade the 9th Wing to tweak that schedule, so the U-2 could be on display at the show. Actually, the wing needed little persuasion, and the plan was eventually approved by higher authority.

My photos below show U-2S 80-1073 on the display line; the detachment commander (callsign ‘Mango’) being interviewed by RIAT’s own television station; the armed guard provided by the British police; the crowd interest in a display of the pilot’s pressure suit and helmet; a new Tesla electric car being used for chase; team members sheltering from the inevitable airshow rain; and the departure from Fairford after the show.

static display low-res

Mango interview low-respolice guard low-resPSD display low-resIMG_6894 low-res

rain shelter low-restakeoff cropped low-res

3 thoughts on “THE U-2 AT RIAT

  1. I love seeing the U2 on display but shocked that this one looks like it just came from the scrap yard. Is the defense budget so low that we can’t afford some touch-up paint? I’m embarrassed for America.


    • That aircraft had been sand-blasted in the desert shortly before flying to RIAT. It was on its way to the US for depot overhaul anyway, so will emerge looking good in a few months time.


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