The ninth Bournemouth Air Festival came to a spectacular close on Sunday with a show-stopping finale from a trio of RAF aircraft – the Red Arrows, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Typhoon.
Held over four days from 18–21 August, festival-goers enjoyed highlights including the Swiss Super Puma Display Team, Red Arrows, demonstrations from the armed forces, Otto the Helicopter and Bournemouth’s first-ever Typhoon dusk display.
With the opening and closing days hailed as the busiest ever for the internationally renowned festival, visitor numbers were estimated at 702,300 over the course of the weekend. In spite of inclement weather, Friday saw a packed programme of air displays in the afternoon as well as night air entertainment. Although worsening conditions forced the cancellation of earlier daytime displays on Saturday, the valiant pilots rewarded dedicated air festival fans with a special early evening display that included the Red Arrows and Royal Navy Black Cats, Hawks and Merlin before clouds and rain closed in to halt the ‘Sunsets on the Beach’ live music event. By Sunday, the festival was back on track and once more record crowds turned out for an impressive climax to the weekend.
This year’s festival featured more than 15 display teams and 40 aircraft supported by more than 55 ground crew. Among a variety of RAF assets, including the Black Cats and Typhoon, the ever-popular Red Arrows – sponsored by Morgan Sindall – appeared on all four days and attracted unprecedented numbers of admirers at the pilots’ meet and greet.
Alongside the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the B-25N Mitchell and Sally B flew in tribute to the historic aircraft of bygone days.
Aerobatics came courtesy of The Blades, Gerald Cooper in his Xtreme Air XA41, Strikemaster Mk82A and the daring Breitling Wingwalkers. Returning for another year, the Tigers Freefall Parachute Display Team jumped from eye-watering heights onto the sand in front of the crowds.
A relatively new and extremely popular addition to the festival programme, this year’s night air displays – sponsored by the Air Festival Patrons Club – starred the Fireflies Aerobatic Display Team, Otto the helicopter, Aerosparx, the Red Devils Parachute Regiment Freefall Team and, for the first time, the Typhoon – lighting up the night skies with its impressive after burn. Fireworks on Friday and Saturday evening provided the perfect end to the evening displays. The patrons also support the 2016 Forces nominated charities – the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity, ABF – The Soldiers Charity and the Jon Egging Trust.
As well as the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight operating the B-25N Mitchell, this year’s international guests included Swiss Air Force Super Puma. Captain Matthieu Ghiringhelli said: “On behalf of the Swiss Air Force and Super Puma Display Team, a big thank you to everyone who has helped to make our first display at Bournemouth Air Festival so fantastic – from the festival makers and events team to everyone who has come to watch us. It has been a brilliant show – we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and we hope to be back next year.”
Once again, the Air Festival was honoured to welcome back the armed forces – now major contributors to the event. As well as a variety of stalls in their beachfront village area, the Royal Navy brought a spectacular flotilla of ships to Bournemouth Bay. The Royal Marine reservists conducted another series of crowd-pleasing amphibious assaults on the beaches and the Band of HM RM Collingwood performed a musical spectacular on the Wave 105 live stage at Boscombe Beach. This year also saw a new mini tattoo on the clifftop featuring the beat retreat sunset ceremony, Queen’s Colour Squadron (63 Squadron RAF Regiment) and unarmed combat demonstrations from the Royal Marine reservists.
Commodore Jamie Miller said: “It has been a delight and a privilege for the naval service to once again support the UK’s premier Air Festival here in Bournemouth. It has been a hugely successful event and a perfect showcase for the Royal Navy. BZ BAF!”
The success of the Air Festival’s ninth consecutive year reinforces its status as Europe’s largest public aviation event and its unique reputation as the UK’s biggest free family air show.
Councillor Lawrence Williams, portfolio holder for tourism, said: “Naturally, I love the Air Festival and this year’s exhibition from aviation artist, David Bent, at the Russell-Cotes added another dimension for me and many other art lovers. After Saturday’s hiccup with the weather, I am delighted that Sunday’s display programme was able to take place against the backdrop of Bournemouth’s trademark blue skies. We owe much of the success of this year’s festival to the Royal Navy and armed forces for their commitment and resilience in the face of adversity.”
Mark Smith, Director of Tourism for Bournemouth, said: “The weather presented a particular challenge this year but the event still goes from strength to strength with records broken on both the Thursday and Sunday. We managed to beat the weather with flying displays on every day thanks to the enthusiasm and expertise of our experienced flying director and his team, all of the magnificent pilots and crew, as well as event and safety staff including our partners in the emergency services. We are grateful to the public for their patience, cooperation and keenness over the course of the weekend and we are proud to have closed Bournemouth’s ninth Air Festival with such an impressive programme of displays.”
Next year, Bournemouth Air Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary and dates are 31 August–3 September 2017.