UK weekly edition, Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Roughly 160,000 aircraft enthusiasts are expected to be flooding the gates of RAF Fairford this weekend as the small remote air base hosts this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo.

The theme of the air show revolves around the U.S. Air Force’s 60th anniversary and looks to feature many aircraft from the service, including a few based in the United Kingdom. Nearly 270 aircraft from 24 countries are slated to attend Saturday and Sunday.

Regarded as the biggest air show in the world, the RIAT is also offering free access to active-duty USAF airmen and civilians with Department of Defense ID cards — a deal worth more than 30 pounds. All children younger than 16 are free when accompanied by an adult.

Those interested in seeing the air show for nothing are asked to call 0870-758-1918 before 5 p.m. Friday, so organizers can gauge spectator numbers, according to Richard Arquati, spokesman for The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises, one of the show’s coordinators.

A highlight in the air show’s onslaught of aerial displays — scheduled for almost nine hours each day — are two rare performances by USAF’s Thunderbirds aerobatic team on both days.

Former RAF Lakenheath officer, Maj. Nicole Malachowski, flies the number three jet as the right wing in the team’s diamond formation.

Malachowski, in her second season with the Thunderbirds, once served as an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet instructor pilot and a flight commander with the 494th Fighter Squadron.

The fighter squadron also will be represented at the show with an F-15E on display, along with other USAF aircraft based in the U.K., including a MH-53M Pave Low helicopter from the 21st Special Operations Squadron, a MC-130H Combat Talon II from the 7th SOS and a MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 67th SOS.

Other notable U.S. military aircraft on display will be the secretive F-117A stealth fighter, massive B-52 Stratofortress bombers, B-1B Lancer bombers, F-15 fighter jets and the legendary World War II fighter P-51 Mustang.

Aerobatic teams from the U.K., Italy and Jordan also are expected and unusual aircraft such as Spanish Navy Harrier jets, Turkish F-5 fighters and a Brazilian R-99 airliner.

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