Magnificent aerial display

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Geoff Thomas

For the first time, this year's Farnborough airshow has been linked to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), the world¹s largest military aviation display. Farnborough¹s move to July could have resulted in an unfortunate clash of dates had the two teams of organisers not worked together for the past couple of years, ensuring that both shows went ahead as planned. Held this year at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland from 19-24 July - the runway at its permanent home, RAF Fairford, is being re-surfaced for NATO use - RIAT 2000 focused on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. As well as a mouth-watering selection of past and present military aircraft - both in the air and on the ground - RIAT featured a Battle of Britain salute that the organisers entitled 'theatre of the air'. A unique team of pilots, actors, pyrotechnics specialists and ground crew portrayed the drama and pathos of summer 1940 - the events linked through giant 'jumbotron' TV screens around the airfield. Spectators had a magnificent view of archive footage as well as 'live' interviews with actors, all of which contributed toward creating an atmosphere reminiscent of an RAF station in southern England during the momentous battle.Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes - along with a lone Bristol Blenheim - danced in the skies as they indulged in mock dog-fights with Messerschmitt Me-108s (masquerading as Me-109s for the occasion) and an Arado Ar-79. The tribute began with a Hurricane aerobatic display celebrating the 65th anniversary of the maiden flight of the fighter in November 1935. Produced by author and award-winning TV producer Graham Hurley, the action followed the fortunes of wartime sweethearts Pilot Officer Wharton (actor Matt Burgess) and his RAF îplotter¹ girlfriend Lizzie (Victoria Woodward). The first part of the action described how pilots were trained (as a Spitfire made a 'shaky' take-off in the background) before the rudiments of dog-fighting were learned. The action in the air then took over as Spitfires and Hurricanes were scrambled to intercept the enemy bombers.