Airbourne 2017: Preview
17th - 20th August 2017
Red Arrows arrival over Eastbourne pier
Airbourne always provides a varied flying programme on all four afternoons; Thursday being the quietest and building to a very busy weekend. This year is the 25th year for the show and some anniversary treats have been lined up.
The Red Arrows and the RAF's "bring on the noise" Typhoon are due to display on three of the four days - the whole weekend except Thursday. The RAF are also treating Eastbourne to a Chinook display on Sunday. This is one of only eleven public shows where the Chinook will be seen in 2017, so it is something of a coup for Airbourne.
Another rarity in UK skies is the Belgian Air Force F-16. The F-16 'Fighting Falcon' has been a favourite in Eastbourne so the crowds will be thrilled that one of only six UK 2017 appearances will be here at Airbourne and it is now flying on all four days, rather than just the weekend days as originally planned.
Sally B was a late addition to the flying on Saturday.
Film fans will know that blockbuster 'Dunkirk' has just been released. Some films that document war-time events use animation to represent WW2 aircraft. Not Dunkirk. In Dunkirk there are real planes flying real sequences and one of them, the Hispano Buchón representing a German Messerschmitt, will display at Airbourne.
A real treat for 2017 is Richard Goodwin flying his 'Muscle biplane': a highly modified Pitts. This display absolutely has to be seen to be believed. He throws the plane around like a leaf in a storm. Note what time he is coming and make sure not to miss his arrival, which is sure to be spectacular, or any of his display. The Strikemaster is another display that should not be missed, both for the elegance of the plane and the exquisite flying of Mark Petrie. Another jet, the MiG-15 from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron will reprise its popular 2016 display.
As well as the Red Arrows and the Chinook, more of the ever-popular RAF teams: the noisy Typhoon and the Mk XlX Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will also be there. The Lancaster and Hurricane were also due to fly, but have been temporarily grounded because of a Merlin engine investigation. More displays are listed in the table.
There will be evening flying on Sunday at around 20.10, with lighting and fireworks on the aircraft of two teams: AeroSparx and the Fireflies.
The Firework finale will be at 10 p.m. on Sunday 20th August.
Hit films will be shown every day after the last flying display on the beach at the bottom of the Wish Tower Slopes. The Films to be shown are Moana (Thursday), Paddington (2014) (Friday), Planes 2: Fire & Rescue (2014) (Saturday) and The Jungle Book (2016) (Sunday)
Airbourne Radio will broadcast from Wednesday 16th August throughout the weekend, online and on 87.7 FM
Airbourne is Eastbourne's International air show, held on Eastbourne's seafront from Thursday until Sunday, usually two weeks before the August Bank Holiday weekend. This is a free seaside airshow (an unsuccessful charging experiment in 2008 was not repeated).
Eastbourne has a very long seafront. The aircraft can been seen from the Sovereign Harbour at the eastern extreme through to Beachy Head on the west. The flying line is more or less between the pier and the foot of Beachy Head, centred on an area called 'Western Lawns'. This is also where the ground displays and trade stalls are. Look out for the Martello Tower (called the 'Wish Tower') which is on the edge of the Lawns.
Beachy Head is a particularly popular viewing point, especially around the Battle of Britain Memorial opposite the Countryside Centre and pub, from where you can look down upon the aircraft that arrive or depart this way with the sea, possibly the lighthouse, as a backdrop. Be aware that not all aircraft arrive this way so some are only visible at some distance but against the backdrop of Eastbourne, Pevensey Bay and towns further east.
|Aircraft due to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)
|Due to fly|
|Typhoon||Fri, Sat, Sun|
|BBMF Spitfire Mk XlX with Griffon engine, unaffected by Merlin engine investigation||Fri, Sat, Sun|
| ||Belgian F-16||All four days|
|Blades||All four days|
|Richard Goodwin||Sat & Sun|
|Strikemaster||All four days|
|Team Raven||All four days. Provisional times:|
|MiG-15||Sat & Sun|
|P-51D Mustang ||All four days |
|Spitfire Mk 1X RR232 (Boultbee Academy)||Sat & Sun|
|Wingwalkers||All four days|
|Hurricane 'Hurribomber' (Hangar 11)||Sat & Sun|
|Fireflies Daytime display||Sat & Sun|
|Fireflies Dusk display||Sunday only|
|Twisters Dusk Display||Sunday only|
||Hispano Buchón||Sat & Sun|
|Catalina||Sat & Sun|
|B-17G 'Sally B'||Sat|
|Tigers Parachute Display Team||All four days|
|Autogyro||Thurs & Fri|
|Scout " Beaver (Army Historic Aircraft Flight)||Thurs, Fri, Sun (Beaver did not fly on Thursday or Friday)|
|Cancelled or Withdrawn|
|Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and Hurricane (Merlin engine issue being investigated)|
|Swordfish. Unserviceable for the whole of 2017 season. (Originally scheduled by Fly Navy, but never confirmed by Airbourne).|
|North American B-25. Unserviceable|
|Sioux (Army Historic Aircraft Flight - replaced by Beaver)|
|All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints|
Airbourne 2016: Review and flying list
Bristol Blenheim displayed in 2015 and 2016
Airbourne always offers a varied flying programme but sometimes the weather affects displays on one or more of the days. Thankfully this year, apart from a strong wind on some days, the weather was kind throughout, enabling a virtually full programme of flying. That extended through to Sunday evening when, as the sun descended, activity on the live music stage gave way to night flying with lighting and fireworks on the aircraft of the Fireflies in their Eastbourne début.
Some shows, especially seaside ones, tend to fall into the 'same again' category. You watch a show and get a feeling of déjà vu if you went to the same show last year. Eastbourne doesn't fall into that trap. There is always something different. Take a look at the 'Earlier Shows' tab on this page for some examples, which have included quite a lot of prestige displays such as the B1 bomber and the Matadors flying the Disney Planes.
This year's Eastbourne débuts included the Great War Display Team, who brought eight of their WWI aircraft to the coast on the Saturday and Sunday, flying mock battles and formations in their variety of allied and enemy WW1 replicas, sometimes in tricky wind conditions. Also new to Airbourne was Tony De Bruyn flying his Rockwell OV-10B 'Bronco', which invariably fascinates the audience with the aircraft's very different 1960's design and Tony's energetic flying, showing every angle and demonstrating the versatility of the aircraft.
The collection at Airbourne 2016 raised £31,170. The charities Children With Cancer, Missing People and You Raise Me Up received cheques for £3,117 each. The balance of £21,819 help to support Airbourne 2017.
Displaying for the first time as a pair, not only in Eastbourne but anywhere, were the Jet Provost duo; Ollie Suckling in the last genuine Jet Provost T.3 flying anywhere and Dan Arlett in Jeff Bell's T.5. They have been practicing the routine for a year and it showed, with close-formation entry and tail chasing as well as synchro manoeuvres on all four Airbourne days.
A jet that was both a pleasure and a slight disappointment was the Sea Vixen. A pleasure, as it always is, to see such a magnificent aircraft in glorious condition. The approach appeared unusually slow and the reason was soon to be revealed. The pilot, Cdr. Simon Hargreaves, suspected that he had a problem with one of his flaps and made a wide circuit, returning to the display line so that the display director could check. It was confirmed that there was, indeed, damage to the starboard flap. The disappointment was that the display could not, therefore, continue and 'Foxy Lady' made an exit over Beachy Head, returning successfully and safely to her base at Yeovilton, where the flap damage was further inspected and the damage confirmed.
Pleasure without the disappointment came in the form of the Aircraft Restoration Company's Spitfire and Hangar 11's Mustang, now in its 'Red Tails' paint scheme, both welcome returnees to Eastbourne. Other prop regulars were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire, although not all at once on all of the days.
The North American Rockwell OV-10 was designed in the 1960s as a light attack and observation aircraft and was widely used for forward air control during the Vietnamese war.
This particular aircraft is the OV-10B variant, a type produced for use in Germany as a target tug
Eastbourne débutante was the B-25 Mitchell 'Sarinah' from the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Flight, one of four bombers at the show, the others being the Lancaster, the Blenheim reprising last year's debut on both weekend days and B-17 Flying Fortress 'Sally B', which returned to Eastbourne on Saturday, after an absence of 15 years.
As well as the BBMF, more of the ever-popular RAF teams displayed, including the Red Arrows on the Friday and Saturday and the crowd's new favourite, the lively, noisy, Typhoon in which this season's display pilot Flt Lt Mark Long ripped up the sky and set off the car alarms on Airbourne's last three days. The Chinook helicopter was to have displayed but all displays by the RAF Chinook Team had been cancelled a few weeks earlier, reportedly because of airframe fatigue. The RAF's King Air Display Team, which had been booked very early in the season, had cancelled all displays this year.
|Flying & (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
||Red Arrows (RAF) (Fri & Sat)
||Eurofighter Typhoon (Fri, Sat & Sun)
||BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane (scheduled all 4 days, but the Spitfire and Hurricane were weathered-in so could not get to Eastbourne on Thursday)|
||Boeing B-17G 'Sally B' (Sat only)|
||The Blades (all four days - as a trio on Thursday and Friday)|
||Team Raven (Sat & Sun)|
||Bristol Blenheim (Sat & Sun)|
||Great War Display Team. (Sat & Sun)|
||Rockwell OV-10 'Bronco' (Sat & Sun)|
||Wingwalkers (all four days)|
||Jet Provost pairs display (all four days)|
||Tigers Parachute Display Team (all four days)|
||B-25 Mitchell 'Sarinah' (all four days)|
||Vampires (Sat & Sun)|
||MiG 15 (Sat & Sun)|
||Spitfire Mk XV1 (all 4 days)|
||Mustang 'Red Tail' (all four days)|
||Fireflies, with lights and fireworks at dusk (Sunday only)|
||Sea Vixen (Sunday only. Was unable to display because of a faulty flap but made two flypasts) |
||RAF Puma (flypast Thursday)|
|Once listed but cancelled before the show|
|Chinook (RAF) cancelled all displays from mid-season due to airframe fatigue|
|King Air Display Team (RAF) cancelled all 2016 displays|
An unscheduled surprise was a flypast by a Puma HC.2 from RAF Benson. Although introduced as a flypast, pilot Flt. Lt. Owen Varley made several turns as well as passes, including a farewell wave from the crew, before departing the way he arrived over Beachy Head. The Puma was to make another flypast at Dunsfold about a fortnight later so the flypast was not unique to Airbourne. It was, nevertheless, a welcome and rare addition to the programme: a welcome contrast to the cancellations more common to airshows.
The Blades did more-or-less their usual thing. The reason it wasn't exactly their normal thing is that there were only three Blades on the first two days of Airbourne, one being (then) Flt Lt Kirsty Moore, the first (and so far only) Red Arrows pilot. Now Kirsty Murphy, she is the wife of the former Red 1 who is currently another of the Blades. However, Ben was tied up with the Red Bull Air Race and although the Blades have a team of six from which to chose four, another two were also unavailable, one on duty at work as a commercial pilot and another with his new baby, so a trio it was. Everything returned to normal for the weekend when all four Extra EA-300s were in the air.
There is no doubting the pedigree of the Blades or their flying skills and they have their followers. However, they do seem to come every year with a very similar display, not only here, but at many other shows. It was therefore good to see some light aircraft aerobatics from other teams. Both the Team Raven in six Vans RV-4 and RV-8s and the Fireflies, in a pair of Vans RV-4s, with their very close formation routine filled that role skilfully and refreshingly. The Fireflies repeated their display on Sunday, with LED lights and pyrotechnics, in dusk flying, an increasingly popular addition to airshows and one that is surely here to stay.
Eastbourne is good at attracting teams from abroad. This year impressive contributions came from Norway in the form of the MiG-15 and the Vampire pair, both from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron. The Vampires, an FB.52 and T.55, have been to Eastbourne for a few years, but the display this year did seem a little more distant than in previous years.
This may be because, as with most airshows in 2016, there were some changes to the flying line that meant the displays were just a little bit further out to sea. Instead of flying over the pier, the aircraft skirted the end of the pier and stayed that far out all the way down the coast. This is an unfortunate, but unsurprising, legacy of the incident at Shoreham in 2015, when the Hawker Hunter crashed into the A27, killing bystanders and road-users. The display rules had changed by the date of the show, although the final report of the Air Accident Investigation Board had not been issued, so distances and other regulations may well be changed by the CAA again before Airbourne 2017. We can only hope, but perhaps not expect, that they may go back to the display lines of old.
There are always one or two parachute display teams at Airbourne and this year The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment's Parachute display team, better known as The Tigers, made jumps on all four days, pulling off something a little different each time and landing, as usual, on the beach rather than in the arena.
On the ground, non-air highlights included the Red Arrows 'Meet and Greet' on the Western Lawns; music on the Live Stage every day including Brit Award nominees and top 10 charting Stooshe on Saturday and Chloe Paige on Sunday; evening concerts in the bandstand along the promenade as well as a firework finale by the Wish Tower on Sunday following the night flying and Live Stage concert, proving this is not only an air display show, but a family show with entertainment for all.
2016 was Airbourne's 24th year. After such a stonking set of displays this year it will be interesting to see what the organisers can do to top that when they celebrate the show's 25th anniversary in 2017.
Past Eastbourne Airshows
Flying line from a Lynx
Airbourne, Eastbourne's International Air Show, is one of the best-enduring free seaside airshows and still claims to be the biggest free airshow in the UK. Its flying displays have a heavy military emphasis, usually including most, if not all, RAF training and current aircraft on the display circuit for that year; The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), typically including a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster, and the Red Arrows. Also expect a parachute display each day - sometimes two, a good selection of aerobatic teams and contributions from abroad.
Lancasters in 2014
Brendan O'Brien with Fireworks in 2014
Red Arrows break in 2007
Spitfire alongside an F-16 in 2009
Matadors as Disney Planes in 2013
B1 Bomber in 2005
WWII warbirds are generally well represented. As well as the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight you can generally expect one or two more British and USA warbirds.
Other than 2014, when the Lancaster pair were the star attraction and 2012 and 2015, when the Vulcan stole the show, The Red Arrows are typically the highlight and may fly on three or even all of the four days of the airshow. Each of their full, rolling and flat displays are possible, depending on weather conditions, because there are none of the height restrictions imposed by the aviation authorities at some shows. Sometimes there is also a personal appearance on one of the days, when the pilots sign autographs and hand out promotional literature.
Most of the displays are single aircraft or aircraft teams performing on their own with a few minutes between displays. Occasionally a Messerschmitt and Spitfire or Hurricane will fly together or imitate a dogfight. There are also sometimes flypasts involving both a old and a new craft, such as the Mustang with an F16 in 2010 or a Spitfire with an F16 in 2009. Apart from these welcome but brief groupings there are relatively few joint displays and nothing like the mass flypasts much enjoyed at some shows.
A tremendous free family show and one that deserves the continuing support of local businesses, authorities and residents.
The show has a good reputation for innovation. In 2005 it was the first UK family show to include the American long-range bomber, the B1, and at the same show the Eurofighter Typhoon made one of its first family show appearances. In 2007, Eastbourne scooped the only family show appearance for the Royal Jordanian Falcons; in 2013 it had the launch of the Disney movie Planes with the Matadors flying in Planes liveries and in 2015 it had the first display at a free show of the Bristol Blenheim.
As well as these firsts and the regulars, the show has also given visitors a chance to see close up some of the larger commercial planes in various liveries, especially from the Boeing fleet.
There have been display incidents. In 2005 one of the Falcons parachute display team had to land on an emergency parachute when his main parachute failed to open. In 2007 the Falcons jumped in quite gusty conditions which lead to some interesting landings and one unfortunately serious injury. Since then the parachute display has been provided by other services and landings have been in the sea or on the beach rather than in the arena.
Commentary used to be provided from a point on top of the Wish Tower, but now comes from a kiosk on the promenade. Anchor commentators are joined by specialists from some of the teams - always including Red 10 from the Red Arrows.
RNAF F16 spiral in 2009
This is a free show. There was a disastrous experiment in 2008, when visitors were charged £5 to enter the central area. The effect was not to raise income, as intended, but to deter visitors who chose to watch from less ideal, but free, positions nearby. The experiment cost huge amounts of money because of the operational expenses associated with securing and controlling the paid-for area and policing the event.
The planned flying timetable used to be printed in the programme, subject to the inevitable variations, but recently the programme has tended to indicate a rough running order. Programme holders can claim a daily flying list from programme sellers and selected information points. Otherwise, regular updates are provided by Radio Airbourne on 87.7 over the show period.
A new feature introduced in 2009 were displays at dusk, ending around 7pm. If the weather is kind, the setting sun provides ideal lighting conditions. More recently this has moved to a later time and has, from 2014, included aerial lighting and fireworks.
Landing on emergency parachute in 2005
It would be good to see a little more variety in the Airbourne line-up. Airbourne wouldn't be the same without the BBMF - local people reminisce and applaud - and the RAF line-up is a welcome constant. Most family shows will expect the wingwalkers. But upon that platform, it would be good to see Eastbourne continue to expand even further on their already good reputation for innovation, perhaps with some novel combinations.
Getting to the Show
A27 from the west, A259 from the east. From the north, M25 / M23 / A23, then A27 from just outside Brighton or the A22.
Airbourne parking and park-and-ride is well signposted.
National Express have direct coach services from Brighton, Hastings and London with connections from further afield. All services terminate at the railway station. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.
Accommodation near the show
It is best to book as far as possible in advance. This is not only because nearby hotels and guest houses tend get booked up well before the date of an airshow but also because prices can be better when you book early online.
There are plenty of booking agencies. We find that many of the well known ones are better at finding hotels from international or larger UK chains and may suggest hotels in main towns or cities quite a distance from the show site.
Between them, LateRooms and Expedia list a good selection of smaller, as well as bigger, hotels and will find accommodation in villages and small towns as well as the main centres. Expedia also give, and take, Nectar points.
Click either blue agency name for a list of hotels and guest houses near the show. The venue is already built into both links, so when the list comes up you just have to enter your dates.
Trivago will list competitive prices for a range of hotels, but they might not necessarily find them all, because some chains do not subscribe to their service. You may also get a better rate if you book direct with an hotel, especially if you are a member of a loyalty or rewards scheme.
For other hotels, the nearest Holiday Inn is about 25 miles away in Brighton but there is a new Premier Inn just a few hundred metres from the flying line and another two within six miles.
Weather for the show area
The Met office seven-day forecast includes maximum, minimum and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind direction, gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.
The BBC's five-day forecast has overall conditions including temperatures, UV range and a description that may help to determine how pleasant the day will be for the visitor.
Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.