Even after 33 years in the business, airshow commentator Stratton Richey still looks forward to Farnborough. “It is my favourite airshow without a doubt,” he says.
Richey got into the commentary business after bumping into his predecessor John Blake on a train journey from Hythe to London. Richey was a young squaddie at the time, and Blake a senior RAF officer, but the pair got on famously and Blake arranged for RAF top brass to invite Richey to come and visit him.

But at his barracks, he was refused permission. Richey says: “I asked my sergeant how I should write the letter saying ‘no.’ He replied ‘You went to school, you know how to write it.’ I said: ‘it is not that, Sir. How do I tell the Air Chief Marshall I am not allowed? He said. “Dear Sir, I have great pleasure in accepting your invitation...”

In 1975 Richey started commentating at Biggin Hill. He said he opened and closed the microphone six times before he got the nerve to speak. But legendary TV presenter and former RAF fighter ace Raymond Baxter told him to imagine he was only speaking to two people on the flight line - and he has not looked back since.

 Stratton Richey

He has slipped up several times over the years, notably exhorting the Farnborough crowd to “check out their Brazilians” when Embraer’s 145 jet debuted. His spoonerisms have caused considerable mirth at the morning flight briefings, although he is adamant that one of his most famous gaffes was not a mistake at all. “The Nimrod AWACS had two domes called radomes, so when an AWACS 707 flew in sporting a rotating dish, I naturally called it a radish!”

However, the prize for most mocked slip up goes to co-commentator Mark Brown, who once described a helicopter carrying an underslung load for fire suppression as “an underlung sload”. Richey says: “I really have to work hard to say it correctly when it comes up.”

So what are Richey’s tips to look out for at Farnborough 2008? “The F-22 is awesome. It will be as much as a showstopper as the MIG 29 was in 2006.”
In addition to his commentary work, Richey is also a British Airways Boeing 747 captain, and also works for his charity HighFlight, sponsored by Flight, BA and Rolls-Royce, which has helped more than 4,000 disabled people since its inception in 2001.

Source: Flight International