Despite mist threatening some of the displays on Airbourne’s first day the event saw thousands of visitors head to the seafront today (Thursday) for the start of the bumper packed event.
The show is in its 21st year and saw the welcome return of the popular RAF Red Arrows which are set to fly for all four days. The team was unable to attend last year due to other flying commitments.
Queues were at all four gates as they opened Thursday morning as visitors looked forward to a series of highlights including the nostalgic Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the heavy duty, tandem rotor Chinook helicopter returning for a demonstration of its enormous heavy lift capabilities.
Annie Wills, tourism development manager for Eastbourne Borough Council, said, “We’re really delighted with the response. Doors opened at 10am and we had queues at all of our gates. People are aware we’ve got a lot of new exhibitions.”
She said a lot of planning went into the event, which has been voted the UK’s best free airshow for two years in a row by Airscene fans, adding, “The planning starts when the show finishes. When we finish at the weekend, we will start planning for 2014.
“There’s a significant amount of work that goes into the planning.”
As people eagerly awaited the first scheduled display in the sky of the day by the Royal Navy Raiders Freefall Team they were treated to a series of displays in the arena, including The Essex Dog Display Team. The freefall team were set to take to the skies at 1.30pm but had delayed its performance until later in the afternoon however, the Breitling Wingwalkers were able to put on a spectacular performance shortly after 2pm.
The Red Arrows took to the skies at 4.15pm, 15 minutes after its scheduled time.
Mrs Wills is hoping this year will prove as popular as last year, adding, “We really missed the Red Arrows last year.
“This year we’re so lucky we’ve got the red arrows for all four days.”
Mrs Wills is hoping people will support the ‘Give A Quid’ campaign which will see 70 per cent of proceeds to fund flying displays at the show, with 30 per cent going to Eastbourne Hospitality Association’s chosen charities and this year it will be split between Samaritans and Macmillan Cancer Support.
She said, “It’s a free airshow and it’s a fantastic opportunity for people to come over but it is an expensive show to put on.
“We generate a lot of income from the trade stands and programme sales and the bucket collections are a real opportunity to generate more income.
“Last year we had a really good year with bucket collections and this year we’re hoping to top that.
“We have four static points where people can put loose change they have got in the buckets. It’s something we’re promoting heavily.
“The weather has been fantastic up until now. We do tend to miss the gloomy weather and we’re remaining confident. There’s so much to do at Airbourne, there’s the arena and exhibitions, the climbing wall - there’s so much to do whether it’s sunny or rains.”