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The RAF's draw down in airshow participation has hit the seaside airshows hard, none more so than Eastbourne which also lost much of it's internation fast jet participation. This brought a changed Airbourne event with much more emphasis on warbirds and the rich aviation history of the South East. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography copyright of author.

Tourists
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Nostagic Memories
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The Jets
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The Aerobats
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Eagles High
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The Reds
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Wokka
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Training Flight
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The Eastbourne International Airshow or "Airbourne" is the biggest seafront airshow in the world. In recent years it has boasted large contingents from the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Army and foreign air arms. This year was very different with just a few overseas acts and the much reduced band of RAF solo displays. The Armed Services still support Eastbourne very well on the ground, but there absence in the air meant a few significant changes to the flying programme. Despite the changes, Eastbourne still maintained an enjoyable and varied display over the four days.

Making their second appearance at Eastbourne were the Blades, the first of several civilian aerobatic acts. Throughout the four days, Eastbourne was subjected to some quite high winds which made the Blades display just that bit more difficult.

Also flying four Extra 300LP aircraft were thee Royal Jordanian Falcons who also coped well with the blustery conditions. The team were making their second Eastbourne appearance and their second and final UK appearance in 2007. The team were enjoying their annual tour of Europe and this was their only seafront airshow of their tour. Over the days of Airbourne, the team, like many other acts, were based just down the coast at Shoreham Airport and were often seen relaxing after their displays outside the Terminal there.

Also operating out of Shoreham were the wonderful Team Guinot who were busy not only with their own displays (which included trips to Rougham and Headcorn over the weekend) but a number of press flights for the Shoreham airshow.

Oasis of Calm

I know I've featured this display before this year but I think it's worthy of note for being one the best new  "acts" of 2007 for it's sheer presence. While it's not quite upto the standard of the South African Airways display, the Oasis 747-400 continues  to impress, particular arriving from behind Beachy Head which surely must have been of the "Airshow moments of the Year!"

Solo aerobatic also had  quite a showing with quite different displays from Will Curtis in the outrageous Sukhoi Su-26M2 and John Taylor in the sleek yet aggressive looking Extra 300L of Ultimate High.

An unusual display for Eastbourne was that given by the Oasis Hong Kong Airlines Boeing 747-400 which made a dramatic sight appearing over Beachy Head.

One very pleasing aspect of this years Airbourne was the participation from the warbird community. Making a welcome return was Peter Teichman who this year was displaying two of his warbirds with the P-51D Mustang Jumpin' Jaques and P-40M Kittyhawk present over the four days. Also returning was John Romain who once again presented a Spitifre solo. This year his mount was the newly repainted Spitfire IX.T in the colour of the Dutch Air Force.

However, the highlight of the warbird displays was a set piece involving two Messerscmitt Me108s and two Hawker Hurricanes.  The '108's were from the 108 flying group and included the ex-Lindsey Walton machine that often graced and got shot down at airshows during the 1980's and 1990's. The Hurricanes were the Historic Aircraft Collection's Hurricane XII and Peter Vacher's Hurricane I which fended off the marauding Me108's and saved a vessel in the channel. Also adding to the Nostalgia were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with their pair of Spitfire IIa and Hurricane IIc.

RAF participation has been very limited at all the UK shows this summer. The bulk of their display are provided by the training fleets with solo displays from the Grob Tutor T1, Shorts Tucano T1 and Hawk T1. All three of these displays have been very busy throughout the summer and it shows in their flying with all three giving very polished and precise displays. Competing for the honours of crowd favourites were the Red Arrows and Eurofighter Typhoon F2 displays with perhaps the reds just edging it over the weekend days. The Typhoon infact was the only fast jet participation at the whole show with no jets coming from any of the usual international participants. Also taking part were the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. One member of the team was unfortunately seriously injured during Sunday's show during a bad landing. We wish him the best for a speedy recovery.

There was plenty of rotary action however. The Army Air Crops had the Blue Eagles present throughout the four days while the Chinook HC2 appeared over the final three days.

The only regular performer over Airbourne from an overseas air arm was the Belgian Air Component Sea King Mk.48 from 40 Squadron at Koksidje. The Sea King performed a search and rescue demonstration with the local lifeboat along the seafront. On Saturday the wind proved to quite a problem with the winchman hanging around for ages waiting the drop on to the liftboat. Friday's display also saw a flypast by a United States Air Force MC-130P and MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopter from RAF Mildenhall simulating air to air refueling.

Airbourne 2007 was a great success despite the changes imposed on the show by the RAF's operations. The input from the historic aircraft was particularly welcome considering the location of Eastbourne at the heart of the Battle of Britain. The ever present large crowds show a continued interest in the show and long may it continue.

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