AS AIRBOURNE celebrates its 20th birthday this week, the group which originally started the flying festival have spoken of their memories.
The very first air show spectacular, held from August 5-9 in 1993, was organised by the Eastbourne Marketing Group and sponsored by PPP which used to have its headquarters in Eastbourne.
It featured a giant hot air balloon, demonstrations by RAF police dogs, the RAF Falcons Free Fall Display Team, the popular Birdman competition, the Cadbury’s Crunchie Flying Circus Air Display team, helicopter rides and of course, the Red Arrows.
The manager of Eastbourne’s Arndale Centre Bill Plumridge led the Airbourne Group, part of the Eastbourne Marketing Group, a public and private partnership which grew out of a tourism survey in 1990 showing that not enough tourists and business people knew what the town had to offer.
Anne Angel, the group’s project manager, said it was a voluntary organisation of people who all loved Eastbourne and wanted to promote it.
“We liaised with the careers office in Brighton to organise the very first Airbourne and worked closely with the Civil Aviation Authority,” said Anne.
“It was a steep learning curve, and we could not have done it without the support and expertise of Eastbourne Borough Council’s tourism team, which guided our small team. I remember asking what the Red Arrows particularly looked out to avoid, and the answer was ‘low flying seagulls at the end of the pier!’.
“Back in 1993 there were hot air balloons in Gildredge Park and model aeroplanes in Five Acre field. There were no trade stands in the central area. We had a successful Birdman competition on the pier, with lots of publicity in national papers.
“Security as now was always a great priority, we had the threat from the IRA of bicycle bombs as there had been one left on Brighton pier about this time, and a bicycle left near the organising tent caused a great security alert. It turned out to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce who was carrying out voluntary work for us.
“My main memory of Airbourne 1993 was when the Red Arrows appeared, there was a sea of people as far as one could see. I am proud to have been the first project manager for Airbourne and it’s so great from those small beginnings how it has developed into a major national event.”