IT IS ‘chocks away’ at RAF Fairford today as the annual Royal International Air Tattoo gets under way.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows, the world famous display team are set to be the main attraction, and there is a chance today for visitors to see the planes up close in the pit area.

There will also be a special guest as The Prince of Wales will meet the pilots, air cadets and local schoolchildren.

He had been set to meet Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols who will be flying the new F-35B Lightning II, but the plane will not be flying as all the aircraft are grounded.

Air tattoo chief executive Tim Prince said the decision was a great disappointment given the amount of planning that had gone into bringing the aircraft to RIAT for its international display debut.

He added: “It’s not unusual for there to be delays in the development programme of any new military aircraft, and the air tattoo has been working closely with teams from Lockheed Martin, the US Marine Corps, Department of Defence and MoD to ensure the aircraft touched down at RAF Fairford. Unfortunately we’ve simply run out of time.

“We understand and support the decision as safety of pilots and aircraft has to be paramount.

“Fortunately, the F-35B is only one of more than 200 exciting aircraft representing 33 air arms from 27 countries around the globe that will be taking part in RIAT.”

Today is the first time visitors to Fairford will be able to get so close to the Red Arrows at the special Pit Stop, which is all part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Tim said: “The Red Arrows are iconic and we were honoured the RAF asked us to lead with the celebrations.

“At Fairford we look to be more than just any other air show and bring in planes from across the globe which is why we are internationally renowned.

“This year guests will be treated to displays from seven other display teams as well.”

The gates will open at 6am so visitors are asked to set off early to allow for the heavy traffic.

Saturday is sold out but there are a small number of tickets for Sunday. They can be bought by visiting

The weather forecast for the weekend is a mixture of sun and cloud but the rain is expected to stay away so the displays should go ahead as planned.

Look out for our live blog from Charles' visit later this morning.