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Airbourne Eastbourne Airshow 2011

 

 

The best Free Airshow, around, celebrates its 18th Year!

2011 is the 19th year of this free seafront airshow. Knowing how early the crowds begin to gather, I drove down overnight and secured a parking place only a few yards from the main display area.

The rain had started at about 3am and had persisted all night – flying had been cancelled on the first day of the show and the second day, despite some improvement in the weather conditions, was curtailed with “flat displays” being the order of the day. The weather people had forecast a change by midday and, for once, they were dead on. What had started out as a wet and rainy morning had now changed to a glorious August day with blue skies, light winds and bright sunshine – full aerobatic displays for us, today, then!

Unfortunately, as we all know, harsh sunlight and contrast can present a challenge in themselves. I have lost count of the number of times I have been disappointed with results on such bright days and I nearly always end up with taking my post image work, in Photoshop, to the very limits!

After a full English breakfast, I collected my media pass and found myself a position, on the seafront path, overlooking the designated beach landing area for the parachute display teams.

With flying due to start at 12 noon, I had time to peruse the stands and attractions around the site. Airbourne seems to have grown again this year and the diversity of activities, and free entry, make it a great day out for all – even those with no interest in aviation.

Noticing that the crowd was already building, I returned to my chosen spot and waited for the flying to begin –

 

The first item on the display agenda were the Black Cats/Tigers Parachute Display Team.

It was a great display by the team - who went on to give another demonstration to close the show at the end of the day.

The flying commenced with comprehensive displays by the T6 Texan, the RAF’s Tutor and Tucano were followed by a chance to enjoy some nostalgia - the roar of a Merlin engine and the sight of a Hurricane heading in from over Beachy Head, just as such iconic warbirds would have done in 1940!

For the helicopter fans, the content could have been a little light as the display was down to one solo machine but the pilot had the crowds enthralled with some great flying and a full routine which demonstrated this helicopter’s capabilities.

The flying displays continued for the afternoon – in fact we enjoyed a full 4 hour program which included the Blades. As usual, their display of close aerobatics was only equalled when the RAF Red Arrows (The Blades’ previous employers!) followed with a full display – no restricted displays today with such magnificent weather and great visibility!

More use of the Red Arrows’ RT transmissions added to the breathtaking routines which also included a couple of new additions for this year’s display circuit – the Arrows continue to push the limits and remain the world leaders in precision formation flying.

The next three attractions; the Spitifre, the Matadors and the BAE Hawk all gave full displays and were followed by the usual anticipation amongst the crowd as they awaited the arrival of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Flight was greeted by great cheers and applause. Personally, I am always a little disappointed when they send a Spitfire Mk X1X as an escort. I prefer to see an earlier example and I think it always looks more in keeping with the Lancaster and Hurricane. Nevertheless, we were treated to a good display – including slow passes by the Lancaster with wheels down.

It’s not often that you get a mock attack by a couple of Tornados to snap, but, we were lucky enough to have the chance to capture run after run by a pair of aircraft recently deployed on operations. The simulation was certainly noisy and many a young child was heard to scream – I trust, “with excitement” and not fear!

Next something special and arranged by two of the display pilots themselves.

We had already seen the Curtis P40 display. Our friendly F16 Pilot, Michael “Mitch” Buelen, from Belgium, is due to finish his displays shortly. I am sure all those who attend Air Displays in the UK have enjoyed his fantastic demos. He wanted to give the crowd something different as a “farewell” and decided to do a joint display with the P40 Kittyhawk. And, that’s exactly what happened – with the P40 taking the lead position – all highly unusual and a great photo opportunity!

The F16 peeled away and, launching some flares, gave a comprehensive display of the F16’s capabilities. “Mitch” will be sorely missed on the UK display circuit by all those lucky enough to have seen his skilful displays.

 
Miss Demeanour arrived for her display. I had only ever seen images of this Hunter. She didn’t disappoint any of us. Fairly long in the tooth, she may be, but her display matched and any of the other more modern aircraft. And, that paint job; just how colourful and photogenic can an aeroplane be – I’m in love!

Finally, for those who attend Airbourne next year: If you want parking near to the display area, arrive early. There are lots of road closures so, if you are not there by 9am, use the Park and Ride Services.

Go prepared with sunscreen and drinks – the seafront is very exposed and it is easy to get sunburnt. Drinks are relatively expensive in the arena area but you do have plenty of hotel bars and drinks stalls in the area.

The sun is high and causes real exposure problems. Consider shooting from Beachy Head rather than the display area. You may miss some of the more intricate routines but you are better placed being - level with, or above, arriving and departing aircraft. See you at Eastbourne in 2012!

 
Review by Dave Briers

 

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