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Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival 2012

 

 

A Grey Day with Grey Aeroplanes and Grey Skies!

Now, I am not a great fan of seaside air displays – invariably the sun is in the wrong place and on dull days, the best autofocus system available can struggle to pick out that grey shape that is a Typhoon, especially against an even greyer sky.

 
 
 

However, as on this particular Saturday in June, the rest of the UK was under a blanket of heavy rain, it is, perhaps, a little churlish to complain about weather conditions at East Anglia’s “premier airshow” – Lowestoft. We probably had some of the best weather in the UK.

I do need to indulge my negativity for a brief moment to comment about the positioning of the flight line. We all know that public safety is paramount but, the flight line at Lowestoft appeared to be closer to Holland than it did to the shores of East Anglia!

I struggled to fill any frames with a 150 – 500mm Sigma at its furthest reach - so how the family snapper achieved anything, with their compact cameras, I really don’t know!

The weather was grey and overcast and with threatening clouds making it seem that a deluge was imminent. In fact, it didn’t begin to rain until after the show was over so visitors to Lowestoft saw a lot more flying than many people at other events.

First disappointment of the day was the no show of both the Hurricane and Spitfire from the BBMF – victims of the weather, further North, I believe.

   

However, the Typhoon duly appeared and gave the usual impressive display, accompanied by the familiar ear-shattering noise, as it was put through its paces. Much of the display was far too distant from the crowd and although it certainly demonstrated the Typhoon’s performance, it did little to ensure that the trip to East Anglia might produce some decent photos of what was, essentially, some impressive grey metal form highlighted against a dull and sombre backdrop.

It would perhaps be an idea for the RAF to follow the example of other Air Forces, the Dutch for example, and provide one demo Typhoon in a more impressive “display paint job”. Whilst the purists would argue, as in the case of the beautifully painted Hawker Hunter, Miss Demeanour, that the Typhoon is a front-line combat aircraft and should be painted as such, a more colourful paint job would not go amiss. I would have no objection – the Rafael at RIAT last year had additional advertising decals which actually enhanced the overall effect and photogenic image of the aircraft.

The YAK display followed, but, although the team demonstrated their impressive flying skills, once again, the distance from the action to the shore made the show seem a little flat and whilst it might have been aesthetically pleasing at that range, it was a photographers’ nightmare.

 
 

The Lynx failed to appear and a very apologetic Falcons Team were forced to abandon any hope of a “drop” due to high wind speeds and sudden changes in wind direction.

The newly named Trig Duo gave their usual quality display and there efforts were appreciated by the substantial crowd.

The Breitling Wing Walkers gave, what to me, was one of the highest altitude performances, I have ever seen from these talented pilots and wing walkers. The thrilling effects of their routine were almost entirely negated by “imposed flying height restrictions?” and the very distant offshore flight-line. The distance merely served to take the edge and excitement away from the performance and I don’t think they held the attention of the crowd as they would normally do. After all, if you can’t see the Wing-Walkers, clearly – the whole thing tends to fall flat.

The afternoon did improve a little – a great performance by the photogenic Hunter, Miss Demeanour, aerobatics from the King-Air and the appearance of the B17 and Mustang were brighter moments of an otherwise rather flat day.

The AN2 demonstrated its amazing low stall speed capabilities but really too far from the crowd to be properly appreciated and even the Sea King working with the RNLBI in a rescue scenario was staged at a distance which made decent photography almost impossible.

The Sea Fury was impressive as always with it’s awesome power and rate of climb, but the Swordfish was a Sunday only display – of the two, I think I would have preferred to see the old “Stringbag” – but, perhaps, another time.

Then, the highlight of the day, for so many - the Red Arrows. What can you say about the world’s premier aerobatic display team? I am one of their many faithful supporters and this was the first time I had watched the 7 ship display. Circumstances forced them into a 7 ship routine this season and, I am afraid, despite the fantastic precision flying, the reduction in aircraft does diminish the spectacle a little. It just seemed to lack the final piece of the complicated jigsaw that makes them the best in the world.

   

I am assuming that next season will see them return to a fully loaded 9 ship team.
Ok, so what of the Lowestoft Air Festival?

Well, it’s free for a start – apart from a £3 contribution and 10p each time you required to use the “facilities”, Lowestoft is good value. There are a vast array of other sea-side attractions and plenty of things to do when flying is not taking place, and most attractions are close by and easily accessible.

Almost all of the seafront roads are closed for the event so parking can be a problem. Where parking has been made available, there is a common £10 parking fee. Additional Park and Pay Services are available if you prefer to park away from the event area and the town.

However, it lacked the atmosphere of Eastbourne or Bournemouth and despite this being its 16th Year, there was no real “buzz” about the place - I think it lags well behind many of the other coastal venues.

And finally, that distant flight-line – surely, it needs to be looked at and adjusted. Spectators need to be safe but they visit airshows to feel a sense of action and experience the thrill and excitement of aircraft - if enthusiasts can’t get up close to the action, they won’t attend .

I really couldn’t recommend the Lowestoft Air Festival - unless you had no other display scheduled and were within reasonable travelling distance.

After 15 years, they should have got it right – sorry, but, if I want seaside displays - it’s back to Eastbourne, Bournemouth and Shoreham for me!

 

Review by Dave Briers - click HERE for Daves Showcase

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