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Chocks away! Bournemouth Air Festival takes off again

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The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returns after a two-year absence with Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returns after a two-year absence with Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane

THE 12th Bournemouth Air Festival is under way today with thrilling day and night entertainment in the skies, on land and water this weekend – all to see for free.

Now organised by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, the four-day event staged between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers claims to have entertained over 10.5-million people since it started in 2008 and is Britain’s biggest civilian air show.

The Red Arrows aerobatic team is missing this year, away touring the United States, but spectators are promised an array of dramatic flying with new displays.

As well as vintage aircraft, two parachute teams, aerobatics displays, wingwalkers, night air pyrotechnics and fireworks there will be plenty of noise with the thundering RAF Typhoon, for the first time from Sweden the Saab Draken and Canadair T-33 Silver Star.

Making their debut the Ultimate Warbird Flights will be showcasing their dog fighting skills over the Bournemouth skies in a collection of stunning aircraft including a Hispano Buchon, Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

Other regular favourites include The Blades display team and Rich Goodwin in his muscle biplane Pitts S2S G-EWIZ who took the skies by storm last year with his daredevil skill and spectacular displays.

David Bailey, chairman of the tourism industry’s destination management board for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, said: “This is an important festival not only for Bournemouth but for the rest of the conurbation.

"This year it is estimated to generate in excess of £20m to local economy, as part of an annual tourism spend of over £1.2bn.”

With all three of the British armed forces participating, the RAF will be showing off the twin-rotor Chinook helicopter’s breathtaking aerobatics.

Once again filling the air with the growl of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) returns with the Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane.

Bringing the action to the spectators, the British Army’s Tigers parachute display team will again be dropping on to Bournemouth Beach.

There is a new location for the RAF Village on the East Overcliff with the popular Royal Navy dive tank. On the seafront find out more about life in the military from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Army as they invade the beach and take over with tanks, vehicles and a host of ‘have a go equipment’.

In the skies the Royal Navy’s Black Cats helicopter display team are back - last seen over Bournemouth in 2016 and this year featuring the Augusta Westland 159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopter.

On the water, the Navy’s presence will this year include the Bay Class Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Lyme Bay, a landing ship dock, capable of delivering a significant fighting force anywhere in the world, together with HMS Argyll, the longest serving Type 23 frigate in the Royal Navy, and two P2000 small patrol vessels.

The Otto helicopter pyrotechnic displays will light up the evening skies
The Otto helicopter pyrotechnic displays will light up the evening skies

International participants include the US Navy‘s P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine surveillance aircraft will be flying past on Friday. This plane has been modified from the Boeing 737-800 and with a wingspan of nearly 40 metres it should be an incredible sight.

Dramatic entertainment in the air continues as the sun goes down, with helicopter Otto firing off spectacular pyrotechnic effects to add more explosive entertainment to the evenings, alongside the Red Devils Parachute Regimental Freefall Team with their flares and the Fireflies Aerobatic Display Team whose twilight shows also feature pyrotechnics.

There is also a full programme of musical entertainment at the Lower Gardens Bandstand, night movies on the beach, and all the fun of the fair, as well as bars, trade stalls and much more along the seafront.

Jon Weaver, BCP Council’s air festival director, added: “We have worked really hard on the line-up for 2019. It’s international and loud, everything festival goers love and ask us for year after year.

"We’ve programmed four days of great, free entertainment for residents and visitors and we hope everyone has a great time.


During the festival, a park and ride service is operating from Kings Park at BH7 7AF. Parking is free but there is a charge to use the bus which will drop off at Manor Road, around five to 10 minutes’ walk to the event site.

Park and ride tickets, costing £12 today (Friday) and tomorrow, and £10 Sunday, entitle up to seven people for the return bus service, operating 9am to 11pm today and tomorrow, 7pm Sunday.

For those travelling by train, Yellow Buses is running extra buses from Bournemouth railway station to the pier during the festival. The Seaside Shuttle is every 20 minutes with group tickets available - up to five people can share a £10 group return from the station to the pier on all days.

The usual 24 services an hour between the station and the town centre will also be running.

This year’s air festival is supporting the military nominated charities Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity, The RAF Benevolent Fund, The RAF Association and ABF The Soldiers Charity.

For festival details visit bournemouthair.co.uk or follow the Air Festival crew on social media #bmthairfest

Drones ban

DRONES are specifically banned from the air festival for safety reasons, with a warning that the event will be cancelled and operators prosecuted if any are detected.

The organisers said: “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are strictly not allowed to be flown at the event site, please do not bring any UAS or UAVs to the festival.

“It is against the law for any of these craft to be flown within the Restricted Airspace that is established at the air festival to protect participating aircraft and display teams.

“Organisers are under strict rules to cancel the flying display programme if drones are flying in the dedicated approved air space. Please be aware drone operators will be prosecuted.”

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