Bournemouth Air Festival 2009


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Air Ambulance
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A new show on the 2008 display calendar was the Bournemouth Air Festival. Held over four days the show attracted some of the very best displays in the UK and enjoyed huge audiences despite some variable weather. Photographs appearing on the various web forums were spectacular with superb elevated vantage points over looking some of the displays. Reviews of the show were all very positive and overall the show was nothing short of a huge success! The show returned in 2009 and Flightline UK had to get down there to see what all the fuss was about! Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of Ian Revell/TSA Consulting, Guy Westgate and Paul Johnson/Flightline UK.

The South Coast of England is blessed with a number of flying displays during August at seaside and airfield venues. Infact it's hard for the airshows to avoid clashing with each other! Bournemouth's event is very much a newcomer but it's stunning success last year meant many had had high expectations for an even better event in 2009.

Bournemouth Borough Council are clearly very proud of the event. Driving into Bournemouth, you couldn't fail to notice the huge advertising hoardings on the side of the roads as well as banners along the sides of the buses. The show enjoys sponsorship that many others could only dream of with Wilts & Dorset's "More Bus" brand being the lead sponsors and the local population seem to be fully behind the event too which brings a massive boost the local tourism economy. 2009 saw record crowds of 1.2million attending over the four days of the show with the display area absolutely packed out over the weekend. Indeed some display pilots reported the beaches as black with people rather than appearing sandy!

It's not surprising that direct comparisons are made with Eastbourne Airbourne held a week earlier. Both events are run to the same format starting on a Thursday with a shorter and lower key flying display. Friday sees further more high profile acts added to the show before the main full displays held over the Saturday and Sunday. There were further events on top of the flying displays. The first night saw a world record attempt for the biggest fire fireworks display to held within 60 seconds and there were Hot Air Balloon night glows and some spectacular side shows throughout the rest of the four day festival.

Bournemouth's Success

Bourenmouth Air Festival has been so successful that the borough council has earmarked an extra 50,000 for the event in 2010. The event is said to bring in over 853,059 worth of advertising for Bournemouth reaching more than 78,000,000 people. It was estimated that 30,000,000 was spent by visitors during the four day festival and 100,000 visitors were visiting Bournemouth for the first time.

Venue wise, Eastbourne and Bournemouth could not be more different. Whereas Eastbourne has a number of different vantage points dotted around the downs and the town, Bournemouth's natural ampthitheatre means that all it's vantage points are in short distance of each other. The golden beaches offer some lovely unobstructed views of the flying and the cliff top promenade offers some quite amazing views looking down on some acts. The elevated views across the bay also creates some spectacular backdrops with all the visiting boats and the Isle of Wight in the background. The cliff top promenade is dominated by hotels at Bournemouth and it was a particularly pleasing touch to see quite a few of these holding barbeques and really get involved with the whole event.

The display itself contained all the favourites from the airshow circuit. The show "clashed" with other shows at Dawlish (Thursday) and Shoreham (Saturday and Sunday) which meant some hard work from flying display director Ian Sheeley as he tried to dovetail his flying display into the others.

The show had a distinctly naval feel to it with the large warships such as the RFA Mounts Bay anchored just off Bournemouth and some exciting displays from the Royal Navy's Black Cats display team. As well as a solo Lynx display on the Thursday and their pairs display for the rest of the week, one of their Lynx HAS3 aircraft was involved in a daily beach battle with the Royal Marines which was a particularly welcome addition to the show.

Sadly, there was also some sad news in the lead up to the show from the Royal Navy with the announcement that Lt Cdr Matt Whitfield had suffered a stroke. Matt was due to fly the Sea Vixen at the event and understandably the aircraft was withdrawn from the display. However, we are happy to report that Matt is recovering well at home. The loss of the Sea Vixen did lead to a few late changes to the line up in terms of Classic Jets. Golden Apple's F-86A Sabre appeared over the first couple of days and was joined on Thursday by Andy Cubin in Delta Jets' Hawker Hunter T7A. THe Vampire Preservation Group's Vampire T11 also appeared over the weekend.

Staying with the classic jet theme, it was good to see the Vulcan finally making it to Bournemouth. Originally, the Vulcan was only scheduled to appear over the weekend. However, a relatively late booking from the Dawlish AIrshow also allowed a further brief appearance towards the end of Thursday's flying displa. The sight of the Vulcan banking with the Needles and choppy seas in the background was a stunning memory.

Warbirds too had a strong showing. Peter Teichman is a regular at seaside displays with his superb Hanger 11 Collection. The weekend was a busy one for Peter with a solo display at Bournemouth with his P-40N Kittyhawk as well as further displays at Shoreham. Further warbird displays came from B-17G Flying Fortress Sally-B and the Old Flying Machine Company's pair of Spitfire IX and P-51D Mustang. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were also on hand with their Lancaster and Hurricane.

The aerobatics and barnstorming display teams were represented well. Guy Westgate, Paul Moslin and Pete Wells were back with the Swift Aerobatic Display Team for their unique seaside display of glider and powered aerobatics. Also joining in the fun were the Matadors  (Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones) who were making their Bournemouth debut in their pair of Sukhoi Su-26 aircraft. Other favourites included The Blades, The Yakovlevs and Team Guinot.

The seaside airshows are important venues for the Royal Air Force. The seaside events attract a much wider audience than many of the more traditional airfield based venues thanks to the free entry and extra infrastructure in place. It's therefore unsurprising to see so many of the RAF display teams at Bournemouth. The RAF's parachute display team, The Falcons were on hand all four days, though Thursday's gusty conditions forced them to abondon their display. Unlike many other venues this year, they were at least supported by an RAF aircraft, with the Chinook HC2 acting as the jump platform. The Chinook was also flying it's solo display at the show which has become an increasingly rare occurance due to the types commitments in Afganistan and other operations.

The RAF's training assets were represented by the King Air and the Hawk solo displays. Both had busy weekends supporting Bournemouth, Dawlish and Shoreham. The weekend also saw displays from Flt Lt Scott Loughran in he Typhoon F2 providing some much needed noise and vapour over Bournemouth. Iit is however the Red Arrows that the crowds come to see. The reds have been displaying at Bournemouth for years long before the Air Festival was born and it was fitting that they brought the show to a close on Sunday evening.

Bournemouth provides a wonderful venue for an airshow and the council should be congratulated for such a well run event. Special mention must go to the commentary team of George Bacon and Brendan O'Brien whose particular style so well suits the seaside airshows making them fun for all! Bournemouth Air Festival returns between the 19-22nd August 2010.

Classic Jets
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Heavy Iron
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Navy Lark
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RAF Displays
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