marks 20 Years of Airbourne
2012 marks the 20th year of Eastbourne’s sea front airshow.
I was told by a local resident the airshow was born out of the
town’s RAF Recruitment Week which was held every year.
At the end of each recruitment week, the Red Arrows overflew
the town and gave a display. It was this modest beginning that
developed into the Airbourne Show that we know today.
is a real sense of partnership between the town and the Red
Arrows and the fact that they were not attending, this year,
had caused open disappointment. Although the visit of the Vulcan
was seen as a great bonus and a coup for the show, it was obvious
that the Arrows would be sorely missed.
weather was superb and the crowd turned out in force so, by
the time flying was about to begin, numbers had begun to swell
to the levels we have come to expect at this popular event.
flying did not begin until lunchtime, visitors were kept busy
watching the many diverse events that took place in the main
arena. Airbourne is a family orientated show which offers many
attractions for every member of the family. There are excellent
catering facilities, both on site and in the adjacent hotels
and adequate toilet arrangements – in fact, Airbourne
lacks little – for the flying enthusiast, non-enthusiastic
spouses and children.
usual, many of the roads around the site are closed for the
duration of the show so, for on-street parking, you need to
be there before about 10am. There are plenty of park and ride
services and each year there seems to be an increase in the
numbers of photographers choosing to station themselves at Beachy
Head, rather than on the sea front.
Head may be the end of the display line but it does offer some
advantages – the sun is in a better position and you always
have the option of shooting against the backdrop of the sea.
Choose the right position, include the iconic striped lighthouse
and chalk cliffs in your shots and you have an ideal “set”
in which to place your aircraft. The internet is already full
of images of the Vulcan flying over the sea at this famous south
Sea King and the local RNLBI gave a great “rescue”
demonstration of team work between the RAF and the voluntary
funded lifeboat. This re-assuring sight to seafarers was a tribute
to the skills of both the pilots and the lifeboat crews.
Hawker Hunter, “Misdemeanour”, was resplendent in
her brightly coloured paint finish, Built in 1956, this Hunter
gave its usual high quality display. The Hunter still shows
that, for an old aircraft, she has what it takes. The rate of
climb is impressive and she looks as exciting to watch as when
she was first introduced. The Hunter was sold to numerous countries
and had a long and distinguished career stretching back over
many years. The Black Arrows 111 Squadron used Hunters for their
display team and watching her performance in the 21st Century,
one can understand why.
pilot, Jonathon “Flapjack” Whaley is said to have
commented about the colour scheme, “It is not a felony
to paint a Hunter this way, just a Miss Demeanour”!
concluded the display in his “trademark” manner
- with the canopy pushed back and acknowledging the crowd.
next type of display always amazes me – why do people
jump out of perfectly airworthy aircraft just for fun? The Royal
Navy Parachute Display team, the Raiders, had variable wind
speeds and some strong gusting to contend with but, every member
of the team, managed to land in the centre of the landing zone.
Blades from Sywell, in Northamptonshire, were as impressive
as ever. These very experienced, ex Red Arrows pilots produce
some of the best team aerobatics in the world – though,
I must say, I am always somewhat taken aback by the high pitched
whine from the Extras’ engines.
forget to make a point of calling at Sywell, if you are passing.
Chances are that you will see the Blades practising –
as they do on most days of the week, unless their busy schedule
means they are away, performing at an air display or corporate
practice 2 or 3 times a day and full flying times are listed
daily on the Sywell Aerodrome website in the ‘Status’
SWIP aerobatic team were among the several who displayed including
the Red Bull Matadors and the Patrouille Reva.
BBMF arrived but minus the Hurricane which had developed a
technical fault. The Lancaster was escorted by the Mark XIX
Spitfire which seems, now, to be the first choice as the display
aircraft. As I have commented before, I would prefer to see
an earlier mark of Spitfire escorting the Lancaster –
I just feel it would be more in keeping with the iconic heavy
aircraft gave individual displays. As usual, the Lancaster
did several runs in a number of configurations – gear
down or bomb doors open make for more interesting shots for
photographers and with the sound of four Merlin engines pervading
the air – the crowds loved it.
we didn’t have the Red Arrows, but, we did have two Folland
Gnats – the former display aircraft used by the Red Arrows.
These two aircraft are part of a new charitable trust set up
to preserve the examples in flying condition.
larger than the Hawk, the Gnat still showed great agility
and performance and the display was immaculately flown to
the obvious delight of the crowd.
flying continued with contributions from the Breitling Wingwalkers,
the Lynx and the Chinook, the Texan, the Tornado and many,
many more. Every year, Airbourne seems to be increasing the
number of displays – this year’s displays also
included the B17 Fortress, the P51 Mustang and other iconic
World War 2 aircraft.
to the star of the show – running in at low level over
the sea, the Vulcan was welcomed at Eastbourne and she weaved
her magic spell over the crowd. With a display of tight turns,
banking and climbing, the Vulcan pulled it off again and I
suspect she gained thousands of new fans and will be in demand
for as long as she can continue to fly.
engine replacements have shown just what a costly task it
is to keep her flying but we must hope that the generosity
of the public will be sufficient to see her continue to fly
for as long as is possible. First sketched as a design by
Roy Chadwick in 1946, the Vulcan represents the best in British
technical design and innovation.
has rapidly become a star and has been taken to the very hearts
of the UK public – a far cry from her role as a Cold
War deterrent, designed to deliver nuclear weapons to targets
in former Eastern Bloc countries, her missions are all peaceful
ones nowadays – something which cannot be said about
the famous Vulcan whine and the crackling decibels of her
afterburners. We wish you a long life, Special Lady, as you
continue to thrill all – young and old alike.
would take a complete book to write about Airbourne in real
depth and to list every aircraft that displayed there, Hopefully,
this short review, has given readers a taste of what Eastbourne
has to offer the aviation enthusiast for 4 full days every
is probably one of the best free air shows you will ever attend.
It has the full support of both the town’s businesses
and local residents, who readily accept the road closures
and “inconvenience” without complaint whilst welcoming
thousands of visitors and aircraft fanatics to the town.
to include Airbourne in your display list for 2013 would be
a mistake – see you there, again, next year!
by Dave Briers - click HERE
for Daves Showcase