Mercedes’ Marvellous Mondays… Airbourne – The Eastbourne International Air Show…
A cool sea breeze flows over my skin as I sit on the bench near the playpark I have been occupying with my kids before I look up and gasp wildly into the air. Two planes are flying and swooshing through the air like its nothing, as easily as an acrobatic swimmer swims, spiralling in the water as if they were born in it. They zip and zoom and fly overhead, then I gasp as they fly so close to one another it makes your heart skip a beat, then as soon as its happened its over, as they steer clear of each other and complete another looping stunt in the air above me. This is the Eastbourne Airbourne show… And it is breath-taking!
The Eastbourne Airbourne or otherwise known as the Eastbourne International Airshow is a huge and spectacular four-day event which arrives on our Eastbourneian doorsteps every August for four days, Thursday to Sunday and normally ends with an epic firework display. This year it was the 16th to the 19th and although the heavens opened on a few occasions and some displays had to be cancelled, the show was still an experience to be had. The Airbourne show started back in 1993, and today is boasted as one of the worlds BIGGEST and FREE ENTRIED seaside air shows. And can easily attract double digit thousands on a day and sometimes has seen around nearly a million people over the four days.
We are incredibly lucky to have the air show at our home town which is promoted by our local council. But it is no easy feat keeping the show as there have been a few wobbles with the show on a few occasions such as in 2006 the show lost its sponsor and some people wanted the show scrapped, but it is such a tourist boost for the town and we were lucky when a few smaller sponsors were found and kept the show going strong. Then the council nearly made the event fail at one point when they tried to charge people to watch the show but soon learnt their lesson when not many people paid for it, instead watching it from other places in the town and the show and the council made huge losses, so now the event is free and is hopefully staying free! Then back in 2000 there was some uncertainty as to whether the show would keep going that year or even ever happen again as an unfortunate and heart-breaking event happened, a pilot (Ted Girdler) did not manage to pull out of a stunt and crashed into the sea in front of horrified townspeople, holidaymakers, and even his own son. Luckily no one else was hurt, but what such a shame for the pilot and his family. There was an inquiry by accident investigators and there had been talks of it not continuing but it did, with I believe the permission of his family and still the show continues to this day, but I don’t think the pilot Ted will ever be forgotten by the Eastbourne residents and I like to think the show still going keeps his memory alive.
The show boasts a close relationship with the legendary ‘Red Arrows’, which are one of the worlds best aerobatic display teams who represent the UK at home in shows and also overseas in shows. The Red Arrows, I have to personally admit are probably the biggest draw to the show for me and my family, they are… Amazing! They fly in dynamic loops creating love hearts in the sky and close formations using the colourful smoke of Red, White and Blue to decorate the Eastbourne skies and create a memorable show that children and us adults a like will remember for years. The Red Arrow team have been displaying since 1965 and I hope for many, many years to come. But although they are the main attraction for me, over the years there have been other planes, helicopters and displays that have drawn in the crowds such as: The Belgian f-16, Chinook HC4, The Typhoon FGR4, The Spitfire, The Hurricane, The Lancaster, The Blades – Another Aerobatic display team of former Red Arrow pilots, Catalina, Boeing Stearman Biplanes which hold the Wing Walkers display where extremely brave people stand on top of the planes doing tricks, The Buchon, P-51D Mustang, AH1 helicopters, Parachutists, A battle of Britain display and many, many more. Some planes might not come to every show every year but the organisers nearer the time of the events have a booklet you can buy which has all the planes show times and it tells you which ones a running that year.
Along with the planes there are also a whole lot of things you can explore on the ground too, such as the market stalls, fish and chip shops, the RNLI Lifeboat museum, the pier, as well as the Western Lawns which is home to ground displays where you can see a tank, sit in a helicopter, have a ride in a simulator which takes you on a flight of a plane and of course, you can always dunk your toes in the cool sea. Then finally on the Sunday to mark the end of the epic flight event, there is a huge firework display which lights up the town.
The fireworks are a delight and bring colour and life into the night sky but mark the end of that year’s event, but we Eastbournians remember and revel in the fact that the same time the next year the show will return, and we will be given another spectacular Airbourne treat.