RIAT at RAF Cottesmore


The Royal International Air Tattoo is a yearly gathering of military aircraft, aircrews, and aviation history rolled into almost a week of blazing afterburners, low passes, aerobatics and esprit de corps.

Military personnel from dozens of air forces (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Police and a few other branches) have their chances to mingle and to learn from each other. Aviation enthusiasts have their own groups… formal and informal. Packages for up to six days of aviation photographic access to the airfield might cost a pretty penny to some, but it is well worth in for enthusiasts from the U.K and around the world to see and record some rare military craft in person.


There are always surprises each year regarding attendees and special colors adorning aircraft, but the venue for each show for decades has been RAF Fairford, in Gloucestershire, England since 1985. Well, almost every show. For two years – 2000 and 2001, the show was held at RAF Cottesmore, in Rutland, England. The base once was a former multi-national Tornado training base and most recently home to the Joint Harrier Force of the the U.K.. The main runway and other airfield surfaces at Fairford were being repaved and repaired during that time, and a tradition had to be put on hold. Luckily Cottesmore was another sprawling base with plenty of room for static aircraft displays, and the runway was plenty long enough for all attending aircraft.


Some awesome aircraft were displayed at RAF Cottesmore, including curtain calls of European stalwarts like the Italian F-104 Starfighters and French Mirage IVPs. Here too were some elegant warbirds, like Spitfires, Hurricanes, Blenheim and many more. Here’s a look at a number of aircraft on display during the two years at Cottesmore, all types here have been retired by their prospective military branches:

This Andover C1PR was the RAF’s Open Skies aircraft into the early 2000’s.

USAF C-22B was converted from an airliner that flew with Pan Am and National Airlines.

C-141B Starlifter, the type was retired in 2006.

RAF Canberra PR.9; the last of the Canberra line was retired on June 23, 2006.

Italian Air Force F-104S ASA Starfighter, the type was retired from service in 2005.

Belgian Army Allouette II (SE.313B) was used as a trainer until retirement in 2009.

Hellenic Air Force F-4E… the type was retired on May 5, 2017 from Greek service.

Royal Air Force Jaguar GR3A; the type was officially retired from RAF service in December, 2007.

USAF MH-53M Pave Low, the type was retired in 2008, some were used during the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

French Air Force Mirage IVP, a former nuclear bomber which stood down in 1996, but became a photo reconnaissance platform during the twilight of its caree

French Air force F.1C Mirage, in demonstration team colors. The last French F.1 was retired on June 13, 2014.

Spanish Air Force Mirage F1M; these were retired from Spanish service in 2013, but many were purchased by Draken Industries in the U.S. for adversary training, and some are already flying.

French Nord 262D transport, the type was slowly retired during the last decade, “AL” was parked in 2013.

RAF Nimrod MR2, the type was retired on June 28, 2011.

U.S. Army OH-58D; the type was retired on 2017 although some training airframes may remain in service.

The Piaggio/Douglas PD.808GE served as an Electronic Warfare aircraft, until being retired in 2003.

Westland Sea King HAR3 Search and Rescue helicopters were all retired by 2016.

Spitfire LF XVIe

Spitfire PR IX

Bolingbroke Mk IVT

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