Airbourne at Eastbourne
Garry Lakin soaks up the fun on the Sussex coast
Oh! I do love to be beside the seaside... especially when the air is full of aircraft instead of seagulls. With the setting of Beachy Head in the distance Eastbourne provides a wonderful location for their annual four-day Airshow, AIRbourne 2003, held over the weekend of 16/17 August. Once again the show was sponsored by the CSMA (Civil Service Motoring Association).
I arrived on Friday evening so that I could take full advantage of the full programme on Saturday. It was just as well, parking was at a premium and there were plenty of the old vultures around during the day (I assume he means traffic wardens! - Ed). The show opened with a motorcade along the seafront by members of the CSMA, led by a vintage Leyland open top double-decker bus and rounded off by Laurel and Hardy look-a-likes in a Ford Model T.
The show on Saturday was due to open with the RAF Falcons parachute team but because of the strong wind this had to be cut from the show, so instead the public were treated to a fine display by the Hercules C-130J drop-ship. The opening fly-past in the flying show turned out to be a cracker, celebrating 100 years of flight - a Spitfire F (XIVe RN201/G-BSKP from Historic Flying Ltd) flying in formation with a Tornado F3 from 56(R) Squadron. The aircraft split at the end of the prom with the Tornado climbing away to hold as the Spitfire went into his solo demonstration.
The Belgian Air Force were represented by two types, the Fouga Magister (flown by Major Paul Rorive) and the Alpha Jet (flown by Commandant Thiery 'Bere' Calbert) - both put on excellent displays. Aerobatics seemed to be the name of the game at Eastbourne with two solo displays and four team displays, the two solos being Denny Dobson in his CSMA sponsored Extra 300 and Will Curtis in his Sukhoi 26. The teams, including the Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Yakolevs, were outshone by Patrouille Reva, a pair of Rutan VariEze homebuilt aircraft looking more at home in Star Wars than in an airshow. Their display was very tight and a real crowd pleaser.
The RAF displayed the Tucano, Hawk and Jaguar, showing how recruits progress from basic prop trainer through to jet trainer to the heavy metal of afterburners. The BBMF on the Saturday consisted of a Hurricane, Spitfire and Dakota - all did their customary flying display which we have come to expect from the RAF's tribute team. Sadly the advertised Merlin did not appear at the show, but the Chinook stole the rota thunder with a display of air sea rescue, co-ordinating with an inflatable offshore RNLI dinghy.
The De Havilland Sea Vixen and Vampire were due to fly together in the show but sadly the Vampire was unable to appear, so the Vixen showed off its power over the sea alone, the place it was designed to be seen. Two Utterly Butterly Stearmans and their wing walkers thrilled the crowd with their antics along the seafront, followed by the biggest aircraft in the display, the powerful Nimrod maritime aircraft with a simple but always impressive display. A display not in the published programme was B-17 'Sally B' with a nice display low over the sea. The show was closed with the Red Arrows coming as close to the crowd line as at any show since the change in display rules - wonderful.
Sunday saw much the same as Saturday, only this time the wind was lighter so the Falcons were able to show off their skills jumping from the Hercules at 6,000ft and landing with pinpoint accuracy in the display arena.
As seaside air shows go, this has to be one of the best to visit - ask any of the estimated 200,000 plus visitors on both Saturday and Sunday.