The Bournemouth Air Festival takes place in August each year featuring air displays over four days. There is no admittance charge to the festival and thousands of plane lovers flock to this Dorset resort on the south coast of England to watch the extravaganza, so this year we decided to join them and take a look for ourselves.
There are many vantage points for plane spotting, either from the cliff tops or down on the beach itself and along the beachfront we found many interesting stands and military ‘villages’ to explore. Firstly we took a look around the Royal Navy village where we were able to see demonstrations of their land, sea and air capabilities and a little further on the Royal Marines had us enthralled with their amphibious beach assault.
The Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display Team is their display team which has been in existence since 1964. Known as the ‘Red’s’ because of their bright red flying suits, the aerobatic team reach speeds of up to 600 miles an hour in their BAE Systems Hawk T1 jets and even if you aren’t a fan of aircraft, I can’t imagine anyone not being impressed with their breathtaking displays. At Bournemouth this year the Red Arrows were scheduled to perform on each of the four days of the festival, weather permitting.
We were enthralled with their display, I find it scary to watch at times as it looks like the planes are flying towards each other at great speeds and there won’t be enough room for them to pass, but of course they do as they are highly talented aviators. I enjoy seeing the vapour trails they leave behind, they seem to add impact to the display sequence for spectators on the ground but I gather they also allow the team leader to judge wind speed and direction more accurately than by other means.
Sally B is a 1945 built aircraft being the only airworthy B17 left in Europe. The aircraft is based at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford and flies to air shows across Europe. It was good to see the aircraft on display during our visit.
Another impressive display was from the Breitling Wingwalking team, the world’s only aerobatic formation Wingwalking team. We watched them perform a breathtaking display of acrobatic manoeuvres and handstands whilst strapped to the top wings of the Boeing Stearman biplanes. The manoeuvres over Bournemouth bay included loops, rolls and we even saw the Wingwalkers performing with the plane upside down!
Enthralling the crowds were The Blades, a British civilian aerobatic team and the only full-time civilian aerobatic team in the United Kingdom. All the pilots are former members of the Royal Air Force, having all previously flown with the Red Arrows. The team fly Extra EA300 two seat aerobatic monoplanes.
Sitting out on the bay we could see the military flotilla – four ships courtesy of the Royal Navy. One of the Royal Navy ships of the Royal Fleet Auxillary is even open to view during the festival and tickets are free, but sadly for us they were all taken within minutes of being offered online. The trip includes a free boat transfer from Bournemouth pier to the ship so if we return to the Air Show next year we will certainly try to secure tickets to view the Naval vessel. The weather was overcast but despite the lack of blue skies we enjoyed a very interesting day out and would definitely visit the airshow again.
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