Airbourne 2009, Eastbourne International Airshow


Smoke on the Water
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Water Tigers
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Classic Jets
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Eastbourne's International Airshow, otherwise known as Airbourne had a difficult few months after the 2008 and the decision to charge admission to the central display area. Massive losses of 360,000 were incurred at the event but it survived thanks to Eastbourne Borough Council's contingency fund and willingness to continue the event. 2009 saw the event return with free admission to the show. Held over four days, Eastbourne is one of the largest seafront airshows in the UK and is highly regarded event in the airshow calendar. 2009 also brought in further changes with a new flying operations team from TSA Consulting and an evening show on the Friday. Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography copyright of the Author.

Hurri-bomber debut

Making it's display debut during the evening show  at Eastbourne was Peter Teichman's newly restored Hurricane IIb "Hurri-bomber." The aircraft has been meticulously restored by Hawker Restorations. It's unique amongst airworthy examples in having a 12 gun wing and the bomb racks in place. At shows where the aircraft appears on the ground, Peter even has some authentic replicas of 500lb bombs to hang from the wings.

Eastbourne Borough Council came in for a barrage of criticism after the charging fiasco of 2008 and the future of the show itself with under threat. It was therefore very good news when EBC announced that there would be a 2009 event. However, it's future beyond 2009 was still in doubt as Airbourne would have to prove a success for it to continue. The first encouraging signs came early in the year with the promised return of an F-16 from the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Red Arrows schedule revealing they would be present for all four days of the event which happens only very rarely.

The event itself was blessed with beautiful mid August weather with clear blue skies appearing on all four show days. In all around 600,000 spectators made the trip to the East Sussex coast to watch the four days of flying, a vast improvement on the 48,000 that paid to attend the 2008 event.

Eastbourne airshow is unique due to the number of different vantage points to watch the action. The Pier and the downs to the west of the town prove just as popular as watching from the main showground. Views of the flying displays from the downs looking over the town can prove rather spectacular with aircraft transiting to and from Shoreham Airport and the various holds along the cliffs. A particular highlight of this year's show was a stunning evening performance staring the RAF's Typhoon F2, The Gnat Pair, Blades, Hurricane IIb and Spitfire. With the sun setting and some gentle jazz music in the background, the evening show brought a whole new relaxed atmosphere to the event and some stunning light for photography.

Orange Fever

Unusual formations are always particularly welcome at any show.. At Airbourne, there was a particularly pleasing formation of ARCo's Dutch marked Spitfire IXT with the Dutch Air Force's own "Orange Lion" F-16 display ship on all four shows of the show. On they last day, even Peter Teichman got in on the act!

Seaside shows are particularly varied and always have a good selection of civilian aerobatic and barnstorming acts. Perhaps the most famous are Team Guinot who always support the seaside events well. Eastbourne was treated to traditional pair of Boeing Stearmans with their glamorous wingwalkers on the wing, The Blades too have become some of a stalwart of the seaside airshows with their exciting fourship display in their Extra 300LP aircraft. They were particularly busy during the show days performing twice on the Friday (once in the main show and again in the evening) as well as supporting media flights for both Eastbourne and the proceeding weeks Shoreham Airshow. A team appearing at Eastbourne for the first time were the Swift Aerobatic Display Team with their unique roll-on-tow display followed by the eye-catching Twister solo display.

Also providing a fair proportion of the smoke trails were the Folland Gnat Pair. It was particularly pleasing to see the pair take part during the evening displays on Friday with their smoke beautifully highlighted by the setting sun. The weekend also saw an appearance by Golden Apple's F-86A Sabre which is enjoying a busy season prior to it's departure to the US.

Warbirds are always a part of Airbourne. Headlining the collection of the historic types were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the full complement of Lancaster, Spitfire Vb and Hurricane IIc. Peter Teichman's Hannger 11 Collection have been strong supporters of the show in recent years. Along with his familiar P-51D Mustang Jumpin Jaques, Peter also debuted his stunning Hawker Hurricane IIb. John Romain's Spitfire solo has become something of a tradition at Airbourne. This year he displayed his two seat Spitfire IXT wearing the colours of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. As a salute to the Royal Netherlands Air Force past and present, he flew alongside the Dutch Air Force's own F-16AM Fighting Falcon solo display aircraft for a flypast along the seafront before a spectacular break.

The Dutch Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon was one of the star acts from modern military aviation. Ralph Aarts' dynamic display in the cloudless skies over Eastbourne was the highlight of the four days of flying. The only other "overseas" display was the United States Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker flypasts which occurred during Thursday and Friday.

The UK Armed Forces were represented by participants from the Army and RAF. The only item from the British Army were the incredible Tigers Parachute Display Team who once again jumped into the water rather than landing on the beach which is always a spectacular sight at Eastbourne. The Royal Air Force has always supported Eastbourne very well. This year there were displays on all four days by the Red Arrows who always seem to relish the chance to fly around the downs! They were joined by solo displays from the Typhoon F2/T1A, Hawk T1 and Tutor T1.

Despite still managing to make a small loss this year, Eastbourne Borough Council have committed to running the event again in 2010 from the 12th-15th August. We are particularly glad to here the news as Eastbourne Airbourne is always a pleasure to attend and would be sorely missed if it succumbed to the financial strain on the council.

Military Action
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We'll meet again
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