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Bourne again

Garry Lakin reports on the inaugural Bournemouth Air Festival, held over 28-31 August. Pictures by the author and Andrew Hare

Bournemouth bits #1

In the past, Bournemouth has held air shows at the nearby airport, but this was the first time the locality had held an Air Festival lasting for four days, starting on Thursday and culminating on Sunday. Weather was mixed over the duration of the show, from humid and cloudy to a scorching clear blue sky with temperatures in the high 80s, to low cloud and downpours. Saturday was the best day, although you had to share the beach and cliff walks with an estimated 380,000 visitors.

Bournemouth bits #2

As you entered Bournemouth, the organisers had arranged for an icon to advertise the festival, as on the side of a roundabout was a de Havilland Venom with air show details emblazoned on the side of the cockpit.

The show was well supported by the Royal Air Force on the ground and in the air, bringing along the Typhoon, Hawk, Tucano, Tutor, King Air, Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, not forgetting the Falcons parachute display team who landed on a section of the beach when weather allowed the drop.

The Army's Blue Eagles came with the Lynx, Gazelle, Allouette and Scout, and the Royal Navy flew a 'Black Cats' Lynx and the Sea Hawk; for good measure they also brought along the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship 'Mounts Bay', which stayed moored in the bay for the festival. If you were early enough in the morning, there were free visits to the ship.

Bournemouth International Airport's residents also got involved in the flying display with de Havilland Aviation's Gnat and Sea Vixen playing a major role in the show. Gnat T1 G-NATY is a former Red Arrows mount and flew in formation with the present-day team on Saturday to open the show, but unfortunately the planned Sea Vixen's flypast with the Reds on Sunday had to be cut due to low visibility. Also from BIA was a pair of FRA Falcons, performing their opposition routine that has proven popular this year.

Other thrills and spills were supplied by the wing walkers of Team Guinot's Stearman biplanes, the Blades in their Extra 300s, the Yakolevs, a Silence Twister and Guy Westgate in his Swift S-1 G-IZII, who broke the world record for the number of rolls achieved whilst attached to the tug aircraft, a Piper PA-25 Pawnee flown by the RAFGSA.

A big disappointment for Saturday's visitors was the non-appearance of the Vulcan due to technical gremlins - such a shame as this was the best day for flying conditions at the air festival.

Other large aircraft in the display were Plane Sailing's Catalina and DC-6 G-APSA from Air Atlantique, both giving great displays at low level along the sea front.

An estimated crowd of 750,000 plus attended over the four days at Bournemouth, pleasing the sponsors so much that on Sunday evening they announced that the Festival would definitely return in 2009. Maybe Eastbourne should look west and take note?


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