Interview: Frecce Tricolori Virtuali's V-RIAT 2020 Experience
Updated: Mar 16
For years now, the Royal International Air Tatoo (RIAT) has been one of if not the largest airshow in the world. It has brought together aviation fans from all over the world to partake in a celebration of aviation and military aviation. Sadly, due to this year's situation, the physical event had to be cancelled, but that did not mean that there was not a RIAT in 2020.
This year RIAT moved to the virtual space, livestreaming a two day show free for everyone to see. Instead of the numerous real life demonstration teams that usually attend, this was the first time that virtual demonstration teams took the main stage and showed the world that the virtual side of aviation also has something to present. There were seven acrobatic display teams of various sizes that participated. Virtual Patrouille Suisse, Virtual Patrouille Française, Virtual Swiss Hornet Solo Display, Virtual Belgian F-16 Solo, Virtual Rafale Solo Display by Jetesons, Virtual Red Arrows and our friends, the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali (FTV). Today in this short interview we had the chance to talk with the FTV about their time during Virtual RIAT 2020 and the experience they had during the event:
Q: Getting invited to RIAT is not something that happens that often. How did you guys feel when first getting invited to perform there?
A: Excited ! We actually could not believe [that during such difficult times] the world was [going] through, it turned out [to be] an incredible opportunity for us in the virtual world. It then took a couple of days to cool down and let us realize the correct methodology in order to correctly [structure] our training sessions.
Q: To your knowledge, before RIAT 2020, has there ever been a real world airshow organization that has worked with virtual demonstration teams to create a program?
A: Not on a macroscopic scale such as the Virtual RIAT in 2020. Many airshow organizers are considering involving a virtual counterpart not being the star of the show (unfortunately or luckily …it depends) but to let the everyday people have at least 1/100th of the feelings of what they are showcasing in the air.
Q: Because RIAT was such a unique opportunity for FTV and virtual demonstration teams as a whole, was preparing for RIAT more stressful or complicated than your past shows?
A: It was the natural step [forward] for us. No one [improves] by being stagnant and not stressed, at least a little bit more than before. So it was for us the mental preparation the 2 months before the show.
Q: How long was the team given to prepare for the event?
A: Not everything was ready [at the time that] the official communication that we would take part on the show [happened] (and that is normal business), so to some degree this question has [several] answers. In fact, our routine was slightly changed starting from 2 months before to accommodate for the different ways we would start and finish the show. The team continued to train and as the show approached, a few but significant additional features (the scenario, the length of the show, etc) were added and so our training sessions increased to accommodate those additional modifications.
Q: Did RIAT ever give the team a time limit for the routine? Did you guys have to adapt your usual routine to fit this time slot by leaving some maneuvers away?
A: We were given a certain amount of minutes that were aligned with our show and we did not cut away any maneuvers.
Q: What maneuvers does the team feel were the highlight of the routine this time around?
A: The correct positioning and harmony of flight of the two sections while in front of the crowds are always the most difficult and the most proudly accepted among our team and the viewers.
Q: There were other virtual acrobatic teams participating during RIAT, like the Virtual Red Arrows. Did you guys watch their routines? What do you think about how they performed? A: The Virtual Reds have always expressed a high level of technical maturity and preparation. They displayed very well during the RIAT 2020. Those performances should constitute the “raised bar” every major team should want to reach.
Q: You guys closed Day 2 of RIAT but your time slot seemed quite short and was not included in the official public schedule for that day. Was the team aware of this prior to the live show?
A: Unfortunately, no one could [have been] aware of the technical difficulties that could arise.
Q: How does the team feel in regards to the technical difficulty that cut several minutes from the routines you had recorded? How long was the routine originally?
A: FTV were not very happy in the beginning, but the organizations explained the reasons, so] that we completely understood. The standard FTV display is about 23-25 minutes, shortened to 15 minutes by rules.
Q: Do you feel like the RIAT organizers should have done something different? What would be your recommendations for them so that they can improve?
A: It [was] a first and so it worked out pretty well I should say. There is always room to improve and the [organizers] should take [note] of what [is] necessary to introduce close to the show and [to try] to let everyone know more in advance.
To conclude I would like to thank Duke, as he is our main contact point with the FTV as a whole. Grazie mille, amico mio! Their entire Virtual RIAT 2020 display is available to watch here, so be sure to give it a watch if you have not already:
About the interviewer:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034