Bournemouth Air Festival

Bournemouth Air Festival 2017 preview and 2016 review

Bournemouth Air Festival: A preview

31st August - 3rd September 2016
Brendan O'Brien in 2014

Bournemouth Air Festival is particularly renowned for its night flying. This is is Brendan O'Brien

This will be the tenth anniversary of one of the premier seaside airshows with input from the RAF, Army and Royal Navy, as well as civilian displays. See air displays between the two piers against the backdrop of RN ships offshore. An excellent dusk programme, too, when parachutists and aircraft carry lights and pyrotechnics.

The Bournemouth festival is better supported by the the naval fraternity than any other, with several Royal Navy vessels and generally one or two from France, too.

In the air the RAF will lend its usual support, but without the Typhoon, which is committed elsewhere, and the Lancaster is only due to fly on Thursday and Friday. There will, however, be a rare display by the Chinook, which is only booked for 11 public UK airshows all year. See the table for more details of the flying.

Night Air

There will be 'Night Air' entertainment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Thursday performing will be Rooster, a party band; on Friday it will be The Nick Ross Orchestra and on Saturday a Stevie Wonder tribute band called The Wonderband. Not quite a match for last year's Kaiser Chiefs.

Bournemouth Air Festival

Bournemouth's first airshow, called the Bournemouth Air Festival, was held in August 2008. It has grown in size and popularity since then, rivalling traditional seaside airshows such as Eastbourne.

Like Eastbourne's Airbourne, it is held from Thursday to Sunday along the seafront and offers sea-based events and static displays as well as military, historic and aerobatic air displays. Expect some kind of beach assault or air-sea rescue re-enactment, a lot of participation by all three armed services and some dusk or early evening flying.

Bournemouth's sea front is seven miles long. The air displays can be seen from most points, including the balconies of sea front hotels, but the best viewing is from the centre of the flying line, between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers, either at sea level or from above on a road called East Overcliff Drive.

The festival influences all sorts of other local events, such as concerts, exhibitions, talks, and town centre displays, which take an aviation theme.

Aircraft due to fly
Red Arrows (Thurs 6 p.m.
Fri 3.30 p.m.
Sat noon)
Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane (Thurs, Fri)
Dakota, Spitfire, Hurricane (Sat, Sun)
Chinook (Friday only)
Otto the helicopter - Brendan O'Brien (Thurs, Fri, Sat dusk displays)
Blades (Sat & Sun)
Swordfish W5865 CANCELLED unserviceable
Sally B (All 4 days)
Strikemaster (Sat, Sun)
Vampire pair (Sat, Sun)
Mig-15 (Thurs, Fri, Sun)
RAF Puma HC2
Twisters, daytime displays
Twisters dusk displays
Great War Display Team. Up to 10 WW1 types
P-51D Mustang 'The Shark'
Bristol Blenheim
Gerald Cooper Xtreme Air XA41
Tigers Parachute Display Team (All four days)
Red Devils Parachute Display Team
All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints

Plenty of action despite weather disruption


AeroSparx on Thursday

Unfortunately, even shows as well organized and as well supported as the Bournemouth Air Festival can suffer when the weather is unfavourable. And unfavourable it was. It was especially bad on Saturday, when there was no afternoon flying. Huge credit to the team at Bournemouth and the pilots. With conditions this bad, some shows would simply have cancelled. But Bournemouth managed to retain a huge chunk of the flying and move it along four hours, turning what could have been a disastrous flying day into a good dusk to evening programme.

The Festival had already been affected, as shows invariably are, by cancellations ahead of the event. Bournemouth had been the only show in the UK to be awarded two displays by the Swiss Air Force. Unfortunately, the F-18 was subsequently cancelled, although the Super Puma did remain on the programme: the only UK show to be awarded the Swiss Super Puma in 2016. The show was also privileged to be allocated the Typhoon for three days, scooping a dusk display on Friday, and was the only show to have the Red Arrows and the Black Cats scheduled for all four days.

Black Cats

Black Cats


Brendan O'Brien with Otto

The Bournemouth festival is always very well supported by the the naval fraternity. In 2016 both Royal Navy and French vessels: HMS Monmouth, HMS Grimsby, HMS Tyne, RFA Argus and FNS Sagittaire were all offshore adding to the spectacle, providing a photogenic backdrop to the views and to the flying displays and, in some cases, supporting amphibious Royal Navy and Royal Marine beach assault demonstrations when troops and heavy vehicles invaded the beach with support from helicopters launched from the ships.

The small boats were moved further away from the display line following an extension of the maritime exclusion zone. The flotilla of small ships nevertheless also adds to the ambience, as do several of the coastal formations, such as the Needles to the east and 'Old Harry' to the west.

Against this welcoming background the number and variety of aircraft involved in the flying was rather weaker than at previous Bournemouth Air Festivals. The cancellation of the Swiss F-18 was an early disappointment and the lack of a crowd-puller, such as previous years' Vulcan display and the absence of the hugely popular Chinook or the Sea Vixen appeared to have an affect on visitor numbers, further reduced by poor weather for much of the weekend. The official estimate for one of the better days weather-wise was 187,000 on Thursday.

Against this background, Thursday's action in the air lifted to mood somewhat, with a plentiful programme including a bonus appearance by the BBMF with the Lancaster at official opening time around 10.30, and unprogrammed displays by the Swordfish, in formation with the Black Cats, and Sally B during the afternoon. Once again, the action began with a series of passes by a pensioner wingwalker, this year 85 year-old Dawn Goodson raising funds for a motor neurone disease charity, and continued more-or-less on programme, including a rolling display by the Red Arrows, ending with a spectacular series of dusk displays. The Fireflies, Otto the helicopter and AeroSPARX all lighting the dusk skies with LEDs and fireworks off the wings followed by a parachute jump by the Red Devils, who did keep everyone waiting quite a while as they kept gaining height, eventually to 5,000ft.


Tap / hover over icon for more detail

Red Arrows (RAF)
Eurofighter Typhoon (RAF)
Puma helicopter (Swiss Air Force)
Black Cats (RN)
BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane
The Blades
B-17G 'Sally B'
Breitling Wingwalkers (Friday cancelled)
Fairey Swordfish
Great War Display Team (Sunday cancelled)
Tigers Parachute Display Team
B-25 Mitchell
Gerald Cooper Xtreme XA41
Otto the helicopter (Brendan O'Brien)
Red Devils
Cancelled before the show.
  F/A-18C 'Hornet' (Swiss Air Force) CANCELLED
 King Air Display Team (RAF) CANCELLED

Day two, Friday, began very wet, leaving many spectators fearful that the afternoon's flying might be affected. In the event the start was delayed by an hour but then, for the rest of this day at least, the elements allowed most of the flying to go ahead. The conditions were still gloomy to begin with but the low cloud lifted and even gave way to blue skies periodically although the gusty wind prevailed. The Swordfish was replaced by the Fireflies in the schedule but the weather at the end of the afternoon caused the cancellation of the Wingwalkers, Tigers and Red Devils. The evening flying did go ahead, though, including the Typhoon with a rare dusk display and its second display of the day.

The weather forecast for Saturday was so bad that it was announced on Friday that Saturday's programme would not go ahead as planned. The organisers did manage to run an abbreviated deferred programme from about 5pm, however, although the dusk and evening activities were all called off. On Sunday the Great War display Team were cancelled and the Tigers didn't jump.

The weather that disrupted the flying displays also caused the cancellation of ancillary events. The visits to the ships were affected by the weather and were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday and particular weather casualties were the music shows. The show area had to be cleared early on Friday because of exceptionally high tides, causing the star act, the Kaiser Chiefs, to be cancelled and all shows on Saturday were cancelled because of consequent damage to the stage.


Local area

Getting to the Show

By car

From the east, the M27 and A31 will get you close, then follow the signs. From the west, use the A35. Post Code (for sat nav) BH2 5AA will get you to Bournemouth pier but ignore the sat nav in favour of local directions signs as soon as you see them. There are links to route planners in the Travel Advice column if you prefer to plan ahead or don't have sat nav. Bournemouth and the surrounding roads are extremely busy during festival week so the organisers recommend the use of the (chargeable) park & ride schemes.

By coach

National Express have coach services to London, Gatwick, and along the coast to Weymouth and Poole. You can book seats online. Click the National Express name to go to their web site.

By Train

Bournemouth is served by SouthWest trains to London and towns in Hampshire and Dorset; Virgin trains to the north, sometimes direct and sometimes via London or Coventry and by Southern's West Coastway service to Sussex towns via Southampton.

Click here to create a pocket timetable for your journey between any stations on the National Rail network.

The variety of rail tickets and fares can be very confusing. Trainline and Raileasy web sites list all ticket and fare options for the time and day of travel you choose, but they both levy an admin fee. Click either of the blue ticket agency names to go to their web site.

Travel Advice

Road traffic updates
Highways Agency
National Express
Incidents and enquiries
National Railway Map
DIY pocket timetable
Journey planning by public transport
Route planners (Road)
Bing (Microsoft)

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 International Hotels Group have a Holiday Inn Express in Poole, about 10 miles to the west; Premier Inn have three hotels in Bournemouth and one in Christchurch, about 5 miles away.

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.


UK Met Office

A full 7 day Bournemouth weather forecast from the UK Met Office


A five day forecast from the BBC

2017 Show

August 31st - September 3rd

Airshow links

Bournemouth Air Festival


Not required. This is a free show


Ground events and displays are on all day. Flying is in the afternoons


For links to travel and route planning web sites, click the 'Getting there' tab