2005 Edition





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Thunder Over Eastbourne

Military Might
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Airbourne has grown from a small RAF Town show into what must be now considered a large international airshow. Ever increasing participation from the Royal Air Force has been supported by some European military for many years. 2005 even saw participation from the US based aircraft. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports from the seaside. Photography by Paul Johnson and Michael Rivett.

Belgian Truffles
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United Colours of Eastbournes
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Held over four days every august, Eastbourne has grown into the largest of the UK's seaside airshows and attracts some in the region of 1 million spectators. As such, it's a vital part of Eastbourne's tourist season bringing much benefit to the local economy and raiseing the profile of Eastbourne both nationally and internationally. It is now without doubt a highly regarded airshow, not only for the quality of flying but also the organsation behing the event. The flying display has been organised by some memberod the RIAT team lead by Ian Sheeley which helps greatly in insuring some of the foreign military participation. The show is also attended by members of several national Air Attache offices which this including the Dutch and German Air Forces. 2005 should have seen participation from the Dutch Air Force F-16 solo display team, but sadly the closure of Manston Airfield following the collaspe of EUjet meant they were unable to attend.

Global Reach, Global Power

For the first time at Eastbourne, United States Air Force Air Combat Command provided a display - The B-1B Lancer. The crew came from Dyess Air Force Base near Albilene, Texas. Two B-1s were based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk and were on something of a small tour of European Air Shows. The previous weekend they had participated at the Sanicole Airshow in Belgium before appearing at RAF Valley Photocall on Thursday as well as being at Eastbourne for all four days. Hopefully this first visit will be the first of many for USAF aircraft from Air Combat Command.

Thankfully, for much of the four days, Eastbourne saw reasonable weather with Thursday and Friday seeing the best of the sunshine. On the ground there's always plenty to do at Eastbourne. Much of the Western Lawns are taken up with Arena displays and an impressive RAF Town exhibition including Hawk and Harrier replicas. The main sponsor of the show is the Civil Service Motoring Association who have impressive historic vehicle exhibtions.

Much of the show features RAF aircraft from the primary trainers right through to the current front line fighters. Smallest RAF aircraft on show was the Grob Tutor T1 in the hands of Flt Lt Chris Parkinson who despite the very big sky put on a superb display of aerobatics. Continuing the training theme were the next two aircraft flown by aspiring RAF fast jet pilots, the Shorts Tucano T1 and BAE Systems Hawk T1 flown by Flt Lts Ben Mark and Philip Diacon in typical precise fashion.

With no RAF Nimrod display team this year, the only representative display of RAF multi engined heavies is the Hercules C5 Tactical Demonstration which made a rare appearance at a seaside display. As it can't land it was a shorter display usual but still included the jaw dropping Khe Sahn approach. The Hercules also acted as dropship to the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team who had an eventful jump on Friday when one member sufffered a canopy failure though he was quickly on his reserve chute - the long training progam clearly works! Both the RAF's tactical transport helicopters, the Chinook HC2 and Merlin HC3 also put on impressive displays over the water.

 Of course, grabbing most attentiom amongst the crowds were the fast jets. Making it's last appearance at Eastbourne was the SEPECAT Jaguat GR3A which is likely only to in service with 6sqn next year. As ever, the "cat" made a worthy account of itself. While the Jag was making it's last appearance it's successor was making it's first Eastbourne appearance. Eurofighter Typhoons from No 29(R) sqn arrived early on Friday checking out the display venue before dissappearing back to Biggin Hill where they would be based for the weekend. Later in the afternoon Flt Lt Matt Elliot gave the first impressive performance of the type over the water and didn't fail to impress the crowd.

Back on Dry Land

Many of the RAF and Belgian aircraft were based at Biggin Hill Airport in Kent for the duration of AIRbourne. Biggin is well known for it's own major international airshow, but often supports many other airshows held in the south east, Michael Rivett went to Biggin to capture some "behind the scenes" action.

Another of the aircraft destined to be replaced by the Typhoon, the Tornado F3  gave a noisy account of itself doing it's best to draw vapour out of the air with several tight turns and aerobatics while the Harrier GR7A simply did what it does best to amaze the crowd.

The Belgian Air Component once again supported Eastbourne very well with two very different displays. The little Fouga CM170 Magister made what maybe it's last appearance at Eastbourne with a graceful display which beautifully compliments it's elegant lines. Much more brute force came from the F-16AM Fighting Falcon which at last has some serious RAF competition from the Typhoon. The United States Air Force also made an noteworthy contribution with a KC-135R Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall and the ever impressive B-1B Lancer from Dyess AFB.

As well as all the military flying, Eastbourne always has some of the best displays from the civilian and historic scene. The RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Aircraft Restoration Company's Spitfire XIV in the hands of John Romain reminded the crowds of the RAF past sacrifices and achievement. The four days also saw several aerobatic displays with Will Curtis giving his award winning routine in the Sukhoi Su-26M2 of the Honda Dream Team.  Denny Dobson also put on his amazing routine of self taught aerobatics in his CSMA sponsored Extra EA300XS. Three civilian display teams also appeared. The ever popular Utterly Butterly Barnstormers were joined by the popular Matadors and the French based Patrouille Reva in the strange looking Rutan VariEze kit planes. Perhaps the brightest aircraft on show was the DHL Boeing 757 which no seems to be a regular at the larger UK airshows which is a very welcome development.

Eastbourne has once again surpassed itself with a top quality flying display with a wide variety of acts from across Europe and the US. With so many aircraft in the displays, the five minute gaps of previous shows are thing of the past, even on Thursday and Friday providing non stop action and a great day out for all the family.

 copyright Flightline UK 2005