THE skies above Fairford will be painted a vast array of colours at this year's Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) as the 50th anniversary of the Red Arrows is celebrated.

The world famous display team will be joined by other aircraft from around the world to put on colourful aerobatics throughout the three-day event.

For plane lovers the 2014 show, taking place from July 11 to 13, will be an historic occasion for another reason, with the new F-35 Lightning II set to make its first appearance outside of America.

Following on from the success of last year, the tattoo is poised to be the biggest yet with tickets selling fast.

Tim Prince, chief executive of RIAT, said: “The Red Arrows are absolutely 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.

“Everyone is also very pleased we will have the new F-35 not only on display but also in the air as it is something no other show will have.

“Last year was such a success with perfect weather and everything we had to offer, so tickets have been selling very fast. We would urge anyone who wants to come to buy theirs’ soon.”

Yesterday saw a special launch event with the Red Arrows flying into Fairford to mark the run-up to the show.

Among the guests present were Henry Prince, 80, who was a pilot in the first Red Arrows team which was based at Fairford before they moved to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

He said: “It’s marvellous that after all these years everyone still has such an interest in the Red Arrows.

“I still get a buzz whenever I see the planes and I think everyone else does too.

“A lot of things have changed since I was flying, not least the planes they use, but they still do close formation flying of the highest quality.

“It’s taken some time to build up the reputation but I think now the Red Arrows have to be considered the best in the world.”

Squadron Leader Jim Turner, who flies as the current leader of the display team, said: “Fairford is one of 85 displays we’ll be doing in 11 countries this year, but the air tattoo is going to be a major focus of our 50th display season celebrations because, along with Little Rissington and Kemble, this is one of our spiritual homes.”

Tickets can still be purchased for the event by visiting airshow/visiting/airshow-tickets