Past Talks : May 2019

“The Royal International Air Tattoo – from small beginnings” by Tim Prince OBE, FRAeS

This was an exhilarating gallop through nearly 50 years of air shows, conducted by one of the founders of the Royal International Air Tattoo, Mr Tim Prince. Truly modest about his own contribution, our speaker explained that the first of these air shows was held at North Weald Airfield in 1971. Inspired by him and a fellow air traffic controller, Paul Bowen, this relatively low-key event, organised wholly by volunteers, was held in support of the Royal Air Force Association. Over the years this volunteer force has grown into an army, more than 3,500-strong, who bring with them a wealth of aviation and event-management experience that has helped the Air Tattoo grow into the enormous event it is today. The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) as it is now known has become the world’s largest military air show. After being held at a variety of military airfields, RIAT now takes place each year at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. Tim is the Vice Patron of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises (RAFCTE) which is responsible for staging the event.

Tim downplayed his personal role in managing to entice Air Forces from all over the world to take part over the years. Participating aircraft were copiously illustrated and it would be impossible to list all the varieties of exotic machinery shown in this compelling talk.

In 1983, Tim and the late Paul Bowen set up Flying Scholarships for Disabled People (FSDP) as a living memorial to the indomitable spirit of Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, whose love of flying is the inspiration behind the Charity. After losing both legs in an air accident in 1931, Sir Douglas went on to achieve fame in World War II as a fighter pilot and a gifted leader of men, pursuing his talent into a long and successful civilian career in aviation. Throughout his life he was a dedicated supporter of physically disabled people, to whom he set an outstanding example of courage and perseverance. FSDP have now helped over 400 disabled men and women change their lives, by experiencing the joy of freedom in the air, learning new skills, regaining confidence, and who have “reached for the sky”. This was illustrated by Tim in a moving film of one of the participants, whose life has been transformed by the experience.

This talk was both highly entertaining and inspiring, given by a man who has not only made a major contribution to the general enjoyment of aviation, but also to the welfare of hundreds of disabled people and, of course, their families.