One of the joys of the Fairford RIAT is the number of display teams that come from around the world. Over the years, I have seen teams from as far away as South Korea (the Black Eagles), the UAE and Saudi Arabia (Al-Fursan and Hawks respectively) and, my all-time favourite, the Frecce Tricolori from Italy (the Frecce, unfortunately, were not at RIAT this year).
About 10 years ago, the US Air Force display team, the Thunderbirds, displayed at Fairford, and they were back this year for the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force. A rare event on this side of the Atlantic, and one to be enjoyed (or as their commentator puts site "sit back, relax and enjoy"!)
I've never been a huge fan of the Thunderbirds, not least because the display is organised on a continental scale so that they seem to disappear from sight for extended periods and then zoom back unexpectedly and then are off again. Also, most of their manoeuvres are based on the idea of a military drill, so they parade up and down in close formation without doing so many dare-devil moves and telling a story the way that the most entertaining teams do. However, there is no question that they are brilliantly skilled pilots. I'm putting a few pictures up here to illustrate some of their manoeuvres and skills.
I hadn't quite appreciated it before, but while the red-white-and-blue paint scheme on the F-16 jets they fly is super-epic Americana, the basic white of the scheme illustrates perfectly why coastal command chose white as the best camouflage for flying over the North Atlantic. No doubt the planes show up beautifully against California blue skies, but when they are set against the grey skies of an English summer, they tend to disappear from sight. If I sound like a moaning, I'm absolutely not. It's just that, regrettably, you can rely on an English summer sky to be grey rather than blue.