Bournemouth Highlights

Bournemouth Air Festival 2010

Programme Cover

The Bournemouth Air Festival may be one of the newest seaside events on the calendar, but it is one most innovative airshows on the UK circuit. 2010 saw Bournemouth build on the unprecedented success of the last two years really pushing the show forward. Sadly, the weekend was all but wiped out by persistent low cloud that dogged airshows on the South Coast. However, for those lucky enough to attend on the Thursday, Bournemouth showed itself to be one of the events of the year with its impressive "Night Air" flying display set to music.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from Dorset. All photography copyright of the Author. Video highlights courtesy of Planes TV and Bournemouth Air Festival TV/Hallmark Productions.

I first visited Bournemouth last year and was immediately impressed by the location and organisations of the airshow. Bournemouth had just about got everything right with a fine flying display and superb events throughout the town. 2010 was promised to be much better with even more to see and do around Bournemouth. 2010 saw another giant leap for the show with further innovations around the seafront.

The show featured a number of new ways for visitors to pick up information about events going on. Firstly, large screens were put up at various points around Bournemouth displaying the latest information on the show as well as live feeds of the flying displays. Secondly, in a UK airshow first, Bournemouth had its very own "app" for the Apple iPhone plus the more regular links to Facebook and Twitter. No doubt more and more airshows will start to follow suit next year!

The Air Festival is similar to Eastbourne in that it is held over four days from Thursday through to Sunday. The show slow builds over the Thursday and Friday before the full displays are seen at the weekend. However, the weather played a huge role in how the show played out in 2010. Thursday was forecast to be a day of rain, but actually turned out to be quite sunny and bright during the day followed by a pleasant evening. Friday, though plagued by humid conditions and a murky overcast also allowed for a near full flying display. However, the Saturday and Sunday saw dire conditions for flying with just a few acts managing to get some very flat displays in late on Sunday. It was a massive shame, particularly for the hardy British public which were noted taking position on the beach at 6am in the morning during the weekend!

During Flightline UK's visit on Thursday however, you could not really ask for a better day for a flying display. As last year, a large Royal Fleet Auxillary ship was moored in the bay though this time it was the RFA Largs Bay and was joined by HMS Bangor. The Royal Navy are very keen on the Bournemouth Air Festival as it is one of very few venues where they can show off a number of their different capabilities. The Fleet Air Arm provided Sea King HC4 aircraft for a beach assault with the Royal Marines and this was also kept busy visiting Largs Bay throughout Thursday morning and evening. Joining the Sea King was the Black Cats display team who put on a great display, particularly if you were watching from the cliff top promenade!

The afternoon flying display on the Thursday featured two of the UK's most popular civilian display teams. The Blades appeared with an unusual three ship display early on in the flying display in their RAFA Wings Appeal colours. The Breitling Wingwalkers also gave a great display with girls even managing to touch hands during the mirror pass! The new colour scheme certainly looked good against the blue water too! The weekend's flying display also saw appearances by the Matadors and the new Pitts Duo flown by Alister Kay and Steve Jones.

The Royal Air Force also made an impressive contribution to the Thursday flying display with the Grob Tutor, Shorts Tucano, Beech King Air and BAE Systems Hawk all taking part. By Friday they also joined by the Typhoon and Red Arrows. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also displayed the Spitfire IX and the Lancaster as part of Bournemouth's own commemoration of the Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary. The army were also represented by The Tigers Parachute Display Team jumping into the water just off the beach.

The item that closed the main display on Thursday was the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon. This was the first time that Bournemouth has welcome international military participation to the show and they were clearly very proud of that with images of the "Orange Lion" F-16 adorned all of the shows PR material and the official souvenir programme. It was a spectacular addition to the flying making good use of the blue skies on the Thursday and making good use of flares during his display!

After the main flying display had finished on Thursday there was a nice gap in proceeding to get some refreshment on the beach and soak up the evening sun. One nice surprise during the gap was the appearance of the Vulcan XH558. Though not scheduled to display, the Vulcan did do some "reconnaissance" of the display site before heading to its weekend roost at Bournemouth Airport. Of course the irony was this turn out to be the only chance the Bournemouth crowd had to see the Vulcan, but it did look great in the clear blue evening skies!

The concept of an evening show is nothing new. Shuttleworth have held some great evening shows and recently Eastbourne has done the same. However, Bournemouth's shows was different in that it took place around sunset finishing just in time to allow the last aircraft to be on the ground by sunset +30 minutes, the latest legal time a VFR flight can be made. Dusk seems to bring a very different atmosphere to an air display, perhaps a little mystique and the illuminations along Bournemouth Seafront made for a spectacular vista.

The "Night Air" display was opened by the Red Devils. It was originally planned that they would close the show jumping in night-glow suits, but the forecast of strengthening winds forced a small shuffling of display acts.

The opening aircraft of Night Air was Jonathon Whalley in his stunning Hunter F58a Miss Demeanour. Sadly, the sun was not out for Jonathon's spirited display, but it was amazing to see such as display taking place over the lights of the pier and the seafront!

Following Jonathon was Gerald Cooper in his CAP 232 unlimited aerobatic aircraft. Gerald is the current UK National Aerobatics Champion and was place 7th at last year's World Championships. His display as awesome to watch with gyroscopic and freestyle aerobatics mixed into a breathless 7 minute display. However, with a black and while aircraft, it was becoming a little difficult to pick out the little Cap against the dark sky!

By the time of the last act, it was becoming very dark indeed, but this was perfect for one of the most extraordinary displays ever seen in the UK given by the Swift Aerobatic Display Team. The week previously we had seen one of the first displays given by the team with their new "wingtip sparklers" but the dark skies at Bournemouth gave the display that extra edge. The Swift being flown by Guy Westgate looked magical but more was to come as Pete Wells had also equipped one his Twisters with the same system! It was an epic end to a very special flying display!

If it hadn't been for the weather at the weekend, Bournemouth would have been a superb show. What we saw on Thursday was superb and I really do have a lot of sympathy for the entire organisation behind the show as they all work so hard to produce such a great event. But there is always next year and the Air Festival returns from the 18th-21st August 2011. I'm sure it'll be every bit as good as 2010 promised to be!

What did you think of the show? Which displays did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? Let us know on our Facebook page!

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Bournemouth Highlights