After a career in business, Andy Armstrong became chief executive of Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises (RAFCTE). Its main event – the Royal International Air Tattoo – takes place from 8-10 July.
What sparked your interest in aviation?
My father was Corps Chaplain to the Air Training Corps for 12 years, so my interest in aviation began early. I joined the Air Cadets and was awarded a Cadet Flying Scholarship, which enabled me to go on to obtain a private pilot’s licence.
However, my dreams of becoming a full-time pilot were dented after attending the Royal Air Force aircrew selection centre at Biggin Hill, where I was told my eyesight was not quite good enough.
My career path took me into the world of business, where I became marketing director for Lucozade and Ribena UK at SmithKline Beecham, before joining Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where I ended up as managing director northern Europe.
Now I am able to apply my business experience to something I feel passionate about, knowing that the money raised through our commercial activities directly helps our parent charity, the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT).
The last financial year saw us gift to our charity the largest amount in its history: £784,000 [$1 million]. Among the many things the charity supports are Cadet Flying Scholarships, so life has come full circle!
What does RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises do?
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is RAFCTE’s biggest activity by far, but we also assist with other air shows, such as Cosford, and Scotland’s National Airshow at East Fortune. Our parent charity has also reached an agreement in principle to organise an air show at RAF Scampton, and work is taking place to build the team to deliver the first: on 9-10 September 2017.
How many volunteers does RIAT have, and how important are they?
Volunteers have been at the heart of the Air Tattoo ever since it began at North Weald airfield in 1971. We have in excess of 2,000 professional and dedicated volunteers who come from around the world to help us stage this aviation spectacle, and their donated time equates to at least £1.2 million per year.
We could not do it without them, and their camaraderie, can-do spirit and friendliness are a key ingredient in the unique atmosphere many of our guests appreciate. I am very privileged to have an incredible team of permanent staff and volunteers who all passionately believe in what we do.
Armstrong expects F-35B to steal the show during first appearance
With the Vulcan gone, are you seeing an “F-35-effect” on show interest?
People are very excited about seeing the international debut of the F-35B. We have worked very hard with the RAF, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, Lockheed Martin and many other agencies to make the visit happen. There’s a huge amount of excitement surrounding both the A and B models, but for UK enthusiasts it will be the B model, flown by Sqn Ldr Hugh Nichols, that they really want to see.
What do post-Shoreham safety recommendations mean for 2016?
Safety has been and will continue to be our top priority. We are committed to being totally compliant with UK Civil Aviation Authority and Military Aviation Authority (MAA) regulations. Where relevant, we will go beyond them to ensure we maintain our proud safety record.
Post-Shoreham, we undertook a review of all our risk assessments and safety processes, and have subjected updated versions for examination by experts. We have worked closely with the MAA to complete all our pre-show assurance checks, which includes detailed scrutiny of pilot and aircraft information.
For the public, probably the only noticeable difference will be signage around the perimeter [at RAF Fairford] encouraging people to view the displays from inside the airfield and south of the flight line.
What does the future look like for the charity and for RIAT?
The future looks very bright for both the Air Tattoo and the charity. Over the past few years we have been building up the Air Tattoo’s Friday offering with the aim of making our event a fullyfledged three-day air show by the time we celebrate the RAF’s centenary. RIAT in 2018 will be the “international” celebration, and work has already begun to ensure it is a spectacular show.
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