Resplendant in pink polo shirts, a team of volunteers with 150 years of experience between them are keeping the skies safe over the Royal International Air Tattoo.
Fifteen air traffic controllers from airports across the UK take annual leave to look after the expected 1,000 aircraft movements – arrivals, departures and flying displays – associated with the show at RAF Fairford.
Air traffic controllers operate in two-hour stints, working closely with their military colleagues at RAF Brize Norton. This year, the team has been facing challenges caused by the cloudy weather, low-visibility and the wind direction.
“We work to the same set of rules as we do at our airports, but there are different priorities and ways of handling the aircraft,” says Ian Revell, 52, chief of air traffic operations at the Air Tattoo.
On Thursday, the busiest arrival day for the show, the weather meant aircraft were landing in an easterly direction, creating considerable additional work for the controllers at Fairford and Brize.
Ian has a pool of air traffic controllers from around the country he can call upon for the show, but is always looking for new members of the team.
“We counted up the number of years the team has been doing the show – we think we have around 150 years of combined experience,” said Ian, who has 27 years of Air Tattoo experience under his own belt.
Joining the controllers in the Air Traffic Control tower is their mascot Billy the Badger who has a flying logbook which would be envied even by experienced test pilots. Billy travels the world, with team members looking after him throughout the year. He’s already flown in a number of aircraft in Australia at the country’s main airshow in Avalon and is hoping to fly in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force Kawasaki P-1 this week.
You can purchase your own Billy from one of our Official Merchandise stands on the showground for £10.