QUIA EGO DILIGO EAM
Location: RAF Fairford, UK
Closest City/town: Swindon, UK
Spotter tickets: Yes
RIAT, or the Royal International Air Tattoo, is one of the largest annually occurring Air Shows in Europe, probably also in the world, held at RAF Fairford air base in the UK. A three day Air show, that's actually a six day long event, at least for us aviation photographers if you include the three arrival/departure days before and after the show.
RIAT try to add something new each year, and for 2014, the main attraction was supposed to be the European premier of the F-35 Lightning II multi-role aircraft. Well, that didn't go as planned... Due to an engine fire on a F-35 in the US, they were never able to fly over the Atlantic to make it in time for RIAT. The closest the spectators got to seeing the F-35 was when they towed the mock-up away from the static display to a hangar.
But there were plenty of other planes to see! As a member of "the Cold War Generation", one of my favourite displays were the Polish Su-22M, a true Cold War plane built for speed and low level ground attack and not one of the prettiest planes in the world. But the sound it makes when turning the after burner on has to be experienced.
The other high-light for me was the flight of the Avro Lancaster together with a Hurricane and Spitfire. Power and beauty in one large package.
Besides these two displays, you had your "usual suspects" there with F-16, F-18 Hornet, F-18 Super Hornet, JAS 39 Gripen, Red Arrows etc. etc. In other words, a lot of flying in a limited time frame.
If you plan on visiting RIAT and your prime objective is to take pictures of planes in the air, I would actually recommend spending a day away from the main spectator area. There are great photo locations across the air field, at around £15.00 a day, that gives you great photo opportunities compared to standing/sitting in the spectator area.
This is an air show that attracts a lot of spectators, so get there early to avoid the worst traffic jams and get good parking. The organization is superb but as with all big air show events, prepare for long walks and big crowds.