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Airbourne - Eastbourne Airshow 2010

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I had decided to arrive at Airbourne early on Friday morning in anticipation of large crowds and having to use Eastbourne’s Park and Ride Service, rather than park near the seafront. I arrived at the town to find many of the roads closed off and on-street parking at a premium. Even though I had pre-booked my hotel accommodation, at a sea front hotel, I was unable to get closer than a drop off point - half a mile from my hotel. I eventually made my way towards Beachy Head and found a free parking place about a mile from the main show arena and settled on that as my “base”. Parking in Eastbourne for this show is a “nightmare” as was leaving the show – it took me an hour and a half to get out of Eastbourne before a long drive home.

The day saw heavy rain, a low cloud base and little chance of any decent light. I made a decision to enjoy the show as a spectator on the Friday and gamble that Saturday would bring an improvement in the weather conditions – with a 2 day stay, it was worth the risk as Saturday certainly couldn’t have been any more inclement.

Ken Brannen, another Airscene Member, decided to photograph on the day and also returned on the Sunday, after promises from the weathermen. He tells me that the weather was nearly as bad as it had been on the Friday but he managed to get some great photographs – some of which are included in this review.


Saturday dawned and the weather still hadn’t changed. By noon, ominous black clouds still hovered above and around Eastbourne. Then at 1pm, as if by pre-arrangement with the organisers, the clouds moved away and Eastbourne was bathed in bright sunlight for the rest of the day – much to the relief of the thousands of visitors who quickly filled all the best vantage points in anticipation of a great afternoon’s flying.
The show commenced and we were treated to the now traditional Wing Walkers – now sponsored by Breitling, the aircrafts’ orange livery is far more photogenic than the previous colour scheme. The Blades aerobatic team have also switched to a new blue livery with the RAF brevette prominent under the wings. Both the displays were impressive and offered good photo opportunities while the Wing Walkers were always well within the reach and capability of the average 300mm lens. The Blades were particularly impressive and are probably one of the best display teams you are ever likely to see. Based at Sywell in Northamptonshire, they practice most days, out of season, (check with the Sywell Airfield website) and the airfield and staff are very “photographer friendly”.

The afternoon continued with no cancellations, except the BBMF Lancaster which was unavailable again. No reason was given, although I was told by another photographer that the previous day’s reason for non-appearance was said to be a severe storm over Conningsby!

The “new” F16 Display was particularly impressive and the blue patterned livery photographs extremely well. With the discharging of flares, at the top of several manoeuvres, there are additional opportunities to grab that “once in a season” shot.

The Red Arrows, as usual, performed faultlessly, and made the most of the, by now, perfect display conditions. Talk of possible cuts, during the upcoming Defence Review, by the commentator and “Red 10” caused defiance amongst the crowd who regard the Team as their “own”. They showed their support and appreciation through a lengthy round of applause and I would suggest that any politician or “defence expert”, who chooses any form of cutbacks in Red Arrows funding, could well find themselves the target of a major public outcry!

The Eurofighter provided the usual noisy excitement and the all the other displays including the P51, Venom, Catalina, Spitfire and Hurricanes were well worth seeing. Excellent lighting conditions meant the frequent silhouette effect was not a problem – although, I personally committed the most cardinal of all sins and dialled in far too much exposure compensation – completely “blowing” many of my shots! The day concluded with a mock dogfight display between a Spitfire and a ME 109, which was a poignant memory to those in the crowd who had seen the real dogfights over Beachy Head in 1940.

Airbourne is free. It offers a lot more to visitors than just the flying so, if the kids and the “other half” normally find themselves bored at an air-display, then, this is the one for them! The central arena hosted displays by dog teams and a series of other events. The RAF provided musicians to entertain and, for youngsters, there were many stands representing all three Armed Services. For those interested in military history, Easy Company displayed some US Army Vehicles in living dioramas.
Despite it being a free show, the Organisers have not taken the opportunity to subsidise the event with high prices. There were plenty of food and drink stalls and Sea Front hotels were offering good value food from sandwiches to cooked meals – all adjacent to the main display areas. Toilet and other facilities are more than adequate and the show is well run and certainly worth a visit by both photographers and their families.

My show tip: Get there early for on-street parking or choose to use the Park and Ride. There is no last minute, late arrival parking available!
Review by Dave Briers & Ken Brannen