AIRBOURNE will have to do without the Red Arrows because of pressure from the Government for the iconic display team to head to Russia – with local hotels likely to be counting the cost of international diplomacy.
As reported exclusively in our mid-week paper, The Gazette, the Red Arrows will not be appearing at any stage during the four-day event, which gets underway on Thursday, August 9.
Instead they will perform in the skies above Red Square at the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Air Force in Moscow.
And the Herald can reveal the squadron’s absence is not a matter of the Russian rouble proving more attractive than the Eastbourne pound, but instead because of pressure from the higher echelons of government.
Marco Giorgi, chairman of the Eastbourne Hospitality Association, explained that far from the Arrows shunning Eastbourne, the decision appears to have been made for them.
He said, “I have seen the paperwork. The Red Arrows wanted to come to Eastbourne.
“They love coming here but there is a government agreement.
“Airbourne is their favourite airshow and we have always been very fortunate to have them [but] they are obliged to go [to Russia].”
The Arrows-less line-up will include Tornado and Hawk jets, more than 20 RAF displays including the return of the Tucano and the historic Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, but there is still a genuine concern that without its main attraction, the event may struggle.
Mr Giorgi said, “I am sure it will affect crowds. It is a big disappointment”, adding that he would have to wait and see whether fewer people going to Airbourne would translate into fewer bookings for local hotels, but said there was a definite chance that would be the case.
However, he said local hotels would continue to throw their weight behind the popular event and he had every confidence that Eastbourne Borough Council would manage to secure an equally attractive headline act.
An RAF spokesman did not confirm the squadron’s hand had been forced, simply saying, “This is an exciting opportunity for the RAF to work with our Russian partners on a high-profile event, which will enhance the reputation of the UK’s Armed Forces throughout the world.
“The RAF offers its best wishes to Eastbourne and hope the show is a resounding success.”