2012 Articles

AUG 31 2012
Airshows >> UK: Airbourne At Eastbourne 2012 - Review

Eastbourne held its first airshow in 1993 and the event is now firmly established in the airshow calendar. Whilst it has some regular performers, over the years it has managed to attract a variety of different display acts, most years seeing something new in the programme, and this year was no exception.

The town has a long seafront with a pier at the eastern end, so there are plenty of places to watch the display from, and park and ride facilities to get visitors to the seafront. It also offers some unique alternatives, the most obvious and popular being Beachy Head, an area of high cliffs just west of the town. For Airbourne, there is ample parking available and more than enough room to accommodate spectators.

Whilst it is some distance from the display area, it is possible to see and hear everything, with the added bonus of seeing the aircraft that arrive from the west running in to start their displays, often below cliff height! There are also helicopter pleasure flights operating from a site nearby. Another alternative is to take to the water to watch the display, if you have your own boat of course!

For photography, you’re shooting in to the sun initially, but by about three o’clock the sun is down the beach, so the light gets better from there on.

This year’s show followed its usual format, being spread over four days from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th of August, with the display content varying between the different days. Unfortunately the first day's flying was lost due to low cloud, both at Eastbourne and Shoreham, where many of the display aircraft were operating from.

However the other days saw plenty of sun, although Saturday also featured a strong easterly breeze, while Sunday saw some low cloud roll down from Beachy Head for a while in the afternoon, which curtailed a few of the displays.

There was plenty of variety this year and one major highlight, more of which later! The event was well supported by the RAF, with nearly all of its regular display aircraft taking part. Additionally, B Flight from 22 Squadron at AAC Wattisham opened the display each day with a Sea King HAR3A. This demonstrated crewmen winching to and from the town’s RNLI lifeboats, the charity being one of the main recipients of the funds raised by the event.

The most memorable displays were by the Chinook, which performs what can best be described as an aggressive routine, with manoeuvres which just seem wrong for a helicopter (especially one the size of a Chinook!) but never fail to impress, and XV(R) Squadron’s role demo with a pair of Tornado GR4s. With lots of noise, burner and, on Sunday, lots of vapour courtesy of the moisture in the air, it was an impressive sight and a fitting way to end proceedings, as they closed the show.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) also took part but, unfortunately, didn't enjoy a very good weekend# on Saturday they appeared without the Hurricane and on Sunday were reduced to just one Spitfire, with the Lancaster being unserviceable as well. The Spitfire turned up in the worst of the weather, so sadly only flew two passes before departing.

The Army Air Corps provided its Lynx display, although this aircraft also suffered some technical problems and didn’t appear on Sunday. The Royal Navy contribution consisted of the Raiders Parachute Display Team, which jumped out of Headcorn Parachute Club’s venerable Islander and landed on the beach in front of the crowd.

On to the lighter side, Airbourne regulars the Blades and the Breitling Wingwalkers did what they do best, as did the SWIP Team in their Silence Twisters. They were joined by Patrouille REVA (Reve, Evasion, Voltige, Aerienne = dream, escape, aerobatics, aerial) from Colmar in north eastern France, which provided an international element to the show. They performed with a pair of Vari Ezes and a Long Eze, the team being made up of three French Air Force Mirage pilots, so their routine involved plenty of aerobatics.

Also on hand were the always-brilliant Red Bull Matadors, Steve Jones and Paul Bonhomme, performing in their impressive Xtreme Air XA41s (which were previously known as Sbach 300s).

Warbirds and classic jets featured as well, ranging from a dogfight scenario featuring an Me109 and a Spitfire, through to Jonathon 'Flapjack' Whaley in his classic Hawker Hunter, “Miss Demeanour".

The Battle of Britain dogfight was very appropriate for Eastbourne as the battle had of course raged in the skies over the town in 1940. This year it featured one of the recently restored Mk 1 Spitfires, to make it even more appropriate, and that made up a little bit for the slightly more inappropriate Rolls Royce Merlin-powered Buchon, which masqueraded as a Luftwaffe Me109!

Flapjack and Miss Demeanour meanwhile arrived at speed from the west, providing excellent photo opportunities for those up on Beachy Head, or at least those quick enough to catch him! Other stars included Peter Teichman in his P-51D Mustang “Jumpin’ Jacques”, a pair of Gnats from the North Weald based Red Gnat Display Team and the Aces High C-47 which also put in an appearance.

The undisputed highlight of this year’s show however was Avro Vulcan XH558, which appeared in glorious sunshine late on Saturday afternoon. Arriving early, she could be seen holding at low level off to the west.

When she ran in to start her display the crowds up on Beachy Head, of which I was luckily enough to be one, were treated to the unforgettable sight of a Vulcan at low level over the sea and under the cliffs.

It was a view that you would normally need an air-to-air sortie to achieve, it was a view that many people travelled for several hours to see, and it was a view that didn't leave them disappointed.

To add to that, the distinctive Vulcan howl from its four Olympus engines could be clearly heard up on Beachy Head, no doubt helped a little by the stiff easterly breeze, as Kev Rumens and his crew, with Bill Ramsey performing much of the flying around Beachy Head, put XH558 though its routine.

The so-called 'Vulcan Effect' was very noticeable in the town as well, with the show registering its all-time highest number of visitors that day. All the car parks were reported to be full by early afternoon and the town’s railway station also reported a surge in traffic!

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