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Soggy Southend

Garry Lakin, brolly in hand, braved the Bank Holiday storms on 28 May

The May Bank Holiday weekend wouldn't be the same without the traditional Southend seafront airshow, once again sponsored by the Westcliff Casino. After the great weather during April, who would have thought that the airshow would be nearly a washout? Thousands still flocked to the seaside resort on the Thames Estuary to watch a much-depleted air display on the Monday in dreadful weather conditions - the low cloud, strong winds and rain halted about half of the flying display, but those that took to the air still gave the crowd a bank holiday treat.

The crowd that braved Sunday's rain were treated to a display by a Boeing 747-400 from Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, showing off its agility at low level to the raincoat and umbrella-toting crowd.

The solo Tucano from the RAF opened Monday's flying display, keeping below the grey clouds that never really lifted all afternoon - it was followed by the only helicopter display, a flypast by the Essex Air Ambulance Eurocopter EC135.

Low, slow and fighting the headwind was the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina operated by Plane Sailing. Sometimes crabbing along in the crosswinds, the Big Cat put on a fine show. A nice surprise this year was the appearance of the colourful 'Miss Demeanour', Jonathan 'Flapjack' Whaley's privately-owned Mk58 Hawker Hunter flying low and fast over the remains of the pier. Next on the menu were the Red Arrows, giving a full low-level display, which given the conditions was excellent - I lost count at the number of gasps as the team executed their close passing manoeuvres low along the promenade.

Next to be seen coming out of the gloom was a special ops Hercules from RAF Lyneham with the Falcons parachute display team on board, but the weather did not even allow for a low-level drop, so the C-130K did a short display then disappeared off into the grey again.

Time for a bit of low-level acrobatics with Will Curtis in his 'Road Angel' sponsored Sukhoi Su26 and Andy Evans, Myles Garland, Andy Offer and Dave Slow of the Blades in their specially-built Extra 300 LPs - both displays were well executed in low wispy rain clouds. Last, but not least and undoubtedly the best, was the RAF Typhoon F2 from 29(R) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby, flown by new display pilot Flt Lt Jim Walls. The cloud had just started to lighten slightly as Jim began his display, the afterburners glowing bright orange in the grey clouds as he completed a number of tight manoeuvres, showing off how agile this fighter aircraft really is. Normally you would expect the final pass to end with a high speed climb to the heavens, but instead Jim came in low from the western end of the display line and stayed LOW for the complete length of the seafront, a great way to finish what had been a good, but depleted, 2007 airshow at Southend. Hopefully the dismal weather hasn't dampened the sponsors' enthusiasm for the event and the weather gods will be kinder next year.

 

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