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The Eastbourne International Airshow otherwise known as "Airbourne" is now recognised as the world's biggest seafront airshow. With four days of flying and attracting nearly a million people over four days it isn't hard to see why. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK Reports. All Photography copyright Paul Johnson/Flightline UK.

Continental Culture
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By Gone Era
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A Little Extra
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The news concerning Airbourne earlier in the year hadn't been great. The main sponsorship deal have come to a conclusion and no other similar package could be found for the 2006 show. Instead a number of much smaller sponsors were found in the local area, all of which came on board recognising what a great event Eastbourne offered. Eastbourne has definatly gained an eviable reputation amongst display performers from around Europe as participation wise this was perhaps the best Eastbourne yet. In fact, it was so popular that they show had to rest some acts on idfferent days just so everyone who wanted to display could.

Naturally, there were several of the most popular display acts at the show. Making their Eastbourne debut on Saturday were The Blades led by Wing Commander (ret) Andy Offer. The team have certainly taken the airdisplay circuit by storm in their first year and look set to expand their display for 2007. Also flying an Exta 300L was John Taylor in the B&Q Airforce sponsored aircraft from Ultimate High. Will Curtis was also on hand to display the Sukhoi Su-26M2. One team that's always popular with the Eastbourne crowd are the Utterly Butterly Barnstormers making their last Eastbourne appearance in Utterly Butterly sponsorship. Wingwalker Lucy Foster and Sarah Tanner certainly looked like they were enjoying the display in front of such a large audience.

Nostagia too took a prominent role in the flying displays. Peter Teichman opened Saturday's display in his P-51D Mustang Jumpin' Jaques while John Romain gave a superb account of the Spitfire FR XVIII from the Aircraft Restoration Company. Military backed displays came from the Army Air Corps Historic Aircraft Flight and from the Royal Navy Historic Flight Sea Fury FB11. The RAF also had the usual threeship display from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in the display too, always an highly anticipated display at Airbourne for many.

Eastbourne Rescue

There was something of a subtle "Rescue Helicopter" theme at this year's Airbourne. The first flypast during Saturday's display was made by the Kent Air Ambulence. However, two of the show stars was two SAR demonstartions from the Belgian and Dutch Air Forces. The Belgian's supplied their Sea King Mk48 SAR Demo while the Dutch came with their Agusta/Bell AB412 SAR Demo. Both teams operated from Shoreham Airfield and performed rescue transfers with the local lifeboat teams.

As with any of the major seaside airshows in the UK, Eastbourne enjoys strong support from the Royal Air Force. Unfortunaltely, due to heavy commitments around the UK, the Red Arrows were only present for the Friday and Sunday shows hence probably contributed to what has been described by organisers as their busiest Sunday yet. It was therefore left to the RAF solo displays on the other days to catch the crowds attention. Sqn Ldr Matt Elliot put in a good showing in the Eurofighter Typhoon T1A to perhaps be the star RAF act of the show but as always the Harrier GR7 flown by Flt Lt Pete Keenlyside is always a crwod favourite too. The only other RAF jet in the show was the 100sqn Hawk T1A operating from Biggin Hill and flown by Flt Lt Dunc Wylie in his first season as Strike command Hawk solo pilot. RAF Training was represent by both the excellently flown Grob Tutor T1 and Tucano T1. Saturday saw only the Merlin HC3 from the support helicopter force display. Always something of a surprise at a seaside venue is the C-130J Hercules C5 tactical demonstration. Clearly the usual landing parts of the display can't be achieved but the 2006 display suits itself very well to seaside venues giving the crowd a rare opportunity to see a genuinely large aircraft perform over the sea. Another C-130 was the dropship for the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team, always a favourite display at Airbourne.

However, perhaps the biggest draw of 2006 was the quality of the foreign military participation. This year saw seven different acts from three different european nations join in. For the first time the French Air Force or L'armee de l'air performed at Airbourne with it's solo Mirage 2000C display team. This has been the first time in many years that a Mirage has displayed at a UK venue away from RIAT. The Belgians have been long supporters at Airbourne and this year displayed their F-16AM Fighting Falcon, Westland Sea King Mk48 and made their final appearance with the Fouga Magister. The Dutch also made a return to Airbourne with another three displays which included their F-16AM, Agusta Bell AB412 SAR Demo and the Pilatus PC-7 displays.

There's little doubt in your scribe's mind that Eastbourne has been the best seaside airshow for a few years now. 2006 once again living up to expectation with a well varied display that more importantly had displays within it that suited the venue such as the SAR demos with the lifeboat. Eastbourne offers so much for a day out. The ground exhibitions are simply excellent too and there are many vantage points too. The Promenade and Pier have always been popular but this year it was reported that Beachy Head had over 1000 cars per day in it's car park allowing spectators a bird's eye view of action. There's no doubt Airbourne is very important to Eastbourne and it's obvious that plenty of effort goes into it. It can already claim to be the World's Biggest Seafront Airshow, perhaps that really should say "World's Greatest Seafront Airshow?"

 copyright Flightline UK