Airbourne always provides a varied flying programme on all four afternoons; Thursday being the quietest and building to a very busy weekend.
The show usually includes three or even four daily performances by the Red Arrows and good support from other RAF teams as well as displays by civilian teams.
Airbourne will not take to the skies this summer. The decision to postpone the 2021 event has not been taken lightly, however we know that it is the responsible one to make taking into account the continuing forms of social distancing to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. In the meantime work will commence on looking at how Airbourne can become a sustainable event for 2022 and we hope to return from 18 – 21 August 2022!
Airbourne Radio is invariably live throughout the weekend, online and on 87.7 FM, relaying the commentary and providing music and interviews outside flying times.
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 the '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.
15th - 18th August 2019
Airbourne was off to a great start on Thursday with an excellent flying programme under blue skies.
Thursday is usually the quiet day and, true to form, the programme was certainly not as full as it became for the rest of the week. Nevertheless, the Breitling Jet Team led a star cast for the first of the four days of flying at the Sussex resort.
The show usually includes three or four daily performances by the Red Arrows but in 2019 the team are on a tour of the USA and Canada for nine weeks in August and September so are not available for Eastbourne's Airbourne. The Breitling Jet Team's six L-39 Albatros jet trainers made excellent alternatives. Coming in as a finale to the programme on most days, they gave an impeccable performance, ending with a release of fireworks.
The weather at Coningsby prevented the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight leaving their base to fly to the show on Thursday or Friday. Technical problems meant that the Tucano and the Sea Fury didn't come either on Thursday; poor weather between its Duxford base and the show kept the Sea Fury away on Friday and technical problems again kept it away on Saturday. Nevertheless, in spite of the unfriendly weather, all other displays on the programme went ahead on Thursday and Friday and everything except the Tigers and the Sea Fury flew as expected on Saturday.
Despite the rather windy conditions, the Tigers Parachute Display Team did display on Thursday in gusts that must have been close to their permitted limits. Not only did four of the team make successful jumps and landings in the sea but two team members even made a tandem descent, releasing their tie only feet above the sea. On Friday three members made solo jumps in what appeared to be even trickier conditions. Two made safe, controlled landings into the sea but it is already known that the third made a heavy landing slightly to the west of the landing zone. He is reported to have walked away afterwards and only to have suffered grazes and scratches.
The Blades and The Wingwalkers, too, braved the winds on Thursday and Friday to make excellent performances in what must have been very bumpy rides.
On Saturday the Tigers were unable to jump and the Sea Fury was again cancelled for technical reasons but all other displays went ahead in much more favourable conditions than on the previous two days. Sunday was probably the best day of all, with a full flying programme, including the Sea Fury, which had been kept away on the previous three days, and all under virtually clear, blue skies.
Everyone loves the Chinook display but not everyone gets to see it, as the number of venues is limited each year. In 2019 Eastbourne's Airbourne is one of only thirteen locations where the Chinook display was enjoyed this season and the team were there to thrill the crowds not just once but twice over the two weekend days.
The RAF have arranged excellent participation, as always. Joining the Chinook is the very popular, and very noisy, Eurofighter Typhoon and two trainers, the Tutor and the Tucano, both back on the display circuit this year after a short break.
As well as these current RAF aircraft, the show featured local favourites the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, who this year displayed their Spitfire, Hurricane, Dakota and Lancaster.
There were fireworks from the beach near the Western Lawns Sunday from 9.30, following a display by the Fireflies at 8.20 p.m.
|Chinook (RAF) (Sat & Sun)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon (RAF) (Fri, Sat, Sun)|
|Breitling Jet Team (all 4 days)|
|Dakota (BBMF) (Sat & Sun) (Weather cancellation on Thurs & Fri.)|
|BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane (Sat & Sun) (Weather cancellation on Thurs & Fri.)|
|Grob Tutor (RAF)(Sat & Sun)|
|RAF Tucano. (Due all 4 days but cancelled Thursday)|
|P51 Mustang 'Miss Helen' (Thurs & Fri)|
|Mig-15 (Sat & Sun) Flew with T-33 and solo|
|T-33 Silver Star (Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron) (Sat & Sun) Flew with MiG-15 and solo|
|Richard Goodwin (Sat & Sun)|
|Hawker Sea Fury T.20 (Norwegian Spitfire Foundation) displayed Sunday (due all 4 days but cancelled because of a technical issue on Thursday & Saturday and weather en route on Friday)|
|Strikemaster solo (Thurs & Fri). Strikemaster pair, G-SOAF and G-RSAF (Sat & Sun)|
|Republic P47 Thunderbolt 'Nellie' (Ultimate Warbirds) *|
|North American P-51D Mustang 'Contrary Mary' (formerly 'Miss Velma') G-TFSI (Ultimate Warbirds / Anglia Aircraft Restorations) *|
|Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc G-IBSY 'EE602' (Anglia Restorations) *|
|Hispano HA-1112-M4L Buchón, (Ultimate Warbirds / Air Leasing) *|
|Gazelle Squadron Helicopter pair (Sat & Sun)|
|The Blades (all 4 days)|
|Tigers Parachute Display Team (Thurs, Fri and Sun. Sat cancelled)|
|* The four Ultimate Warbirds aircraft flew together and as pairs.|
A criticism of some seaside shows is that they can be a little 'sameish'. Not so at Eastbourne, where Airbourne is renowned for innovation. This year no fewer than six teams displayed at Eastbourne for the first time. These were the Breitling Jet Team, the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation's Sea Fury, the T-33 'Silver Star', a pair of Gazelles from the Gazelle Squadron, four classic warbirds from Ultimate Warbirds, and the Strikemaster pair.
The Breitling Jet Team are the largest professional civilian jet team in the world, flying seven Czech-built L-39C Albatros aircraft, a type usually flown as twin-seater military training jets although they can also be used for passenger flights. The Breitling Jet Team will display at six UK shows in 2019, only three of which are free seaside shows.
Although Mark Petrie has flown his Strikemaster as a solo at Airbourne before, and he has also flown as a pair with a Jet Provost, 2019 was the first time he displayed as a pair with a second Strikemaster, which comes from the same base at Harwarden. Helicopters are popular at Eastbourne. The Chinook and the Belgian A109 are two that impressed last year. This year the Gazelle Squadron brought a pair of their Gazelles for synchronised rotary action along the seafront. Warbirds were there is strength, too. Not only the BBMF and Mustang 'Miss Helen', but also the foursome from Ultimate Warbirds, new as a quartet not only to Airbourne but to the whole UK airshow circuit this year.
Many enthusiasts are saddened that vintage jets seem to have become rarer on the airshow circuit. Eastbourne had jets-a-plenty with the T-33 'Silver Star' from the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron joining a popular return by the MiG-15.
Add to these the incomparable Richard Goodwin, with his totally bonkers display, testing himself and his Super Pitts 'Muscle Biplane' to the limit, and it is clear why Airbourne is a seaside airshow not to be missed.
Rain didn't stop play at Eastbourne
Eastbourne's Airbourne is one of the longest-running and most popular seaside airshows, now well into its third decade. Its location on the south coast, under the downs and just east of the cliffs at Beachy Head, makes it vulnerable to sea mists and local weather variations, so it can become a victim of the elements, but the team never fails to produce the best show they can in the conditions.
The flying on Thursday, the first day of this four-day airshow, is frequently victim to one weather feature or another but the rest of the weekend generally enjoys weather that is more typical of this 'suntrap of the south'. 2018 was to be the exception, with both Thursday and Sunday suffering from visibility problems, either at the resort itself or between the show and the local base of the display aircraft, causing more cancellations and curtailed displays than Airbourne normally suffers.
|Red Arrows (Friday 3 p.m.; Saturday 4 p.m. (changed to 4.30 p.m.); Sunday due at 12.30 p.m. but cancelled)|
|Typhoon (due all 4 days but cancelled Sunday)|
|Chinook (Thurs (shortened display) & Fri)|
|BBMF Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane (due all 4 days but cancelled on Thursday & Sunday)|
|Grob Tutor (RAF) (Sat. Also due Sun but cancelled)|
|A109 (Belgian Air Force) (all 4 days)|
|Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers (due all 4 days but cancelled Thursday)|
|Supermarine Spitfire (Boultbee Academy) (due all 4 days but cancelled Thursday & Sunday)|
|P-51D Mustang 'Miss Helen'(Boultbee Academy) (Fri. Also due Thurs but cancelled)|
|P-51D Mustang 'The Shark' (Norwegian Spitfire Foundation) (Sat. Also due Sun but cancelled)|
|Strikemaster G-SOAF (solo) (due all 4 days but cancelled Thursday)|
|Richard Goodwin (Pitts Special) (Sat & Sun)|
|Bristol Blenheim (Sat. Also due Sun but cancelled)|
|MiG-15 (Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron) (Sat. Also due Sun but had a technical problem.)|
|Vampires (Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron) (Sat & Sun) (FB.52 had a technical problem on Saturday and was cancelled. No display Sunday.)|
|Fireflies Daytime display (Sat. Also due Sunday but cancelled)|
|Autogyro (due all 4 days but cancelled Thursday and Sunday)|
|Blades (due all 4 days but cancelled Thurs and Sun)|
|Tigers Parachute Display Team (due all 4 days but cancelled Thurs and Sun.)|
|Sunday Dusk Display from about 8.20 p.m.|
|Fireflies with LEDS and Fireworks: cancelled|
|Otto the helicopter: started but abandoned|
Although this is a huge pity for the massive number of spectators; for the local authority and especially the organisers, who put a huge amount of time and effort into producing a top-class show, it can also provide opportunities for some unusual photos for enthusiasts seeking an alternative to the blue-sky airshots.
Unfortunately, due to the poor weather, Thursday's flying was limited to the Chinook, the Belgian A109 and the Typhoon. Brighter conditions and blue skies returned on Friday and, although Saturday was cloudy, there were full afternoons of flying on Friday and Saturday; the exception being the Vampire FB.52 which cancelled because of a technical problem.
On Sunday flying was due to start with the Red Arrows at 12.30 but the weather prevented them and most of the other teams from displaying. In the event, only the Belgian A109, the Strikemaster, Richard Goodwin and the Wingwalkers made it to the display line.
In the evening Otto tried but had to give up and the Fireflies also cancelled although the ground-based fireworks went ahead at 10 p.m.
As always at Airbourne, there were trade, charity and activity stands on a green area at the centre of the display line known as the Western Lawns.
The services are always well represented here, publicising and, hopefully, recruiting at this showpiece for the armed forces. Amongst the exhibitors from the Royal Air Force and Army this year were Bomb Disposal, Royal Engineers, Household Cavalry and the Army Air Corps.
There was free music on the famous Eastbourne Bandstand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the following movies were shown on a big screen after the flying each day.
Despite the weather there was plenty of flying, especially on Friday and Saturday. The Red Arrows headlined the airshow with displays due on three of the four days. Although Sunday's proposed appearance was one of the cancellations, the team did provide always-popular displays on Friday and Saturday, celebrating the centenary of the RAF on Friday, as they have done at several venues throughout 2018, by scribing '100' in smoke across the sky following their display and before their return to base.
There were inevitably other weather cancellations (see the box below) but on the positive side Flt Lt Jim Peterson was able to wake up Eastbourne and surrounding areas when he brought on the noise in the Eurofighter Typhoon every day except Sunday and Flt Lt Stu Kynaston and team brought the familiar wokka-wokka sound of the dual rotor Chinook helicopter to the shoreline on both of his scheduled two opening days of the show.
The aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have a special place in the memories of local residents, many of whom, even to this day, still recall seeing Lancasters and their fighter escorts leaving the UK over Beachy Head, some never to return. Residents and visitors had the chance to see the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane from the Flight on Friday and Saturday, to wave at the aircraft and their pilots, as they often do, and silently to thank both the airmen who went before and those who now keep the treasured aircraft flying today.
More warbirds flew in the same airspace as their wartime predecessors when the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s Mustang 'The Shark', Boultbee Academy's Mk IX Spitfire 'RR232', Mustang “Miss Helen” and the Aircraft Restoration Company's Bristol Blenheim made popular returns to Eastbourne, the latter flown by John Romain, the company's chief pilot and himself no stranger to Airbourne airshows.
Even when the weather was at its trickiest it provided an opportunity for some teams to show how resilient airshows can be. On Thursday the Chinook emerged from the haze to delight the crowds with one of the airshow circuit's favourite displays - although the weather did force it to be shortened - and on Sunday the Belgian A109 helicopter, making its Airbourne debut, did much the same thing, appearing through the weather and even managing an air-sea rescue demonstration with the local lifeboat. Perhaps most credit-worthy of all, when the heavy metal couldn't make it through, the Breitling Wingwalkers arrived on their Boeing Stearman braving the conditions to provide their family-oriented wing-borne gyrations.
Many spectators came to remember times when some of the very same aircraft flew in anger or in defence of the country. Some came to admire the skills of today's pilots of these aircraft and their more modern equivalents. Some simply came for one of the best, free, days out. Whatever their reasons, hundreds of thousands of visitors came to the airshow and their motives will have been satisfied. The organisers have already announced the dates of the Airbourne 2019 so, whether you came in 2018 or not, you can already put 15th - 18th August in your diary to make sure you don't miss Airbourne 2019.
Silver Anniversary with several gold nuggets
Eastbourne's International Airshow, known as Airbourne, has been a regular feature in the calendar of the town and of the airshow world since 1992. The show has an enviable reputation for attracting first class, occasionally unique, displays and for providing one of the best backdrops on the circuit, with Beachy Head to the west and arguably the most attractive pier in the country on the eastern edge of the display line. Every show here is special but this year was its 25th and some anniversary treats were lined up.
The Red Arrows are perennial Airbourne favourites but their top spot was shared in 2017 with two very different displays: the Belgian Air Force F-16 and Rich Goodwin in his highly modified Pitts S-2S Special: the 'Muscle Biplane'.
The F-16 was originally to have displayed at Airbourne just once. This was one of only six UK airshows for the Belgian F-16 'Flying Falcon' in 2017, so already the F-16 display would have been something special: but days before the show the organisers announced that it would fly on all of Airbourne's four days. In fact, it came for a look at the display line and a mini practice on Wednesday, too, so some lucky visitors will have seen it five times. Despite changeable weather conditions over the long weekend, pilot Tom 'Gizmo' De Moortel, who is in his third of a three-year tour as demonstration pilot for the Belgian Air Force F-16, was able to complete all four scheduled displays, earning the town's customary accolade for this Eastbourne favourite. The spectacle was enhanced considerably by the frequent use of flares, which is only allowed when the display is over the sea, with an especially large flare release towards the displays' finale.
This was Rich Goodwin's Airbourne debut and he left a lasting impression. His first outing was on Saturday, immediately after the clearance of rain which had brought a premature end to the display of the MiG-15. With clouds still lingering, Richard's entrance was his hallmark knife-edge pass from the Beachy Head end of the display line, from which he fired into his typically energetic display, taking up a surprising amount of the sky especially bearing in mind the still-limited visibility. On Sunday his reprise was even more spectacular. In clearer skies he entered the display with a corkscrew from height, managing no fewer than 15 spirals before breaking out for eleven minutes of mind-blowing punishment for his plane, throwing the Pitts around the sky like a leaf in a hurricane.
Contrasting with Rich Goodwin's vigorous display, the energy of the Twisters is directed to precision and grace. The team of Peter Wells and Chris Burkett flew a typically flowing display in their Silence SA1100 Twisters, managing to hold their close formations despite very bumpy conditions. Team Raven, too, offered a variation on the light aircraft aerobatics theme, appearing to dominate more of the sky than expected from the size of their six Vans RV4 and RV8 aircraft.
The Lancaster would normally be a huge favourite of the local crowd at Airbourne, many of whom still remember the wartime sorties that began with aircraft overflying Beachy Head towards France - a journey from which some would never return. Unfortunately, an issue with the BBMF's Merlin engines had been discovered a few days before the show and all displays by the Lancaster and other BBMF Merlin-engined aircraft had been paused. Happily, it was possible to replace the intended displays by the BBMF trio of Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire with a solo display of the Mk XlX Spitfire on the three last days of the show, when the BBMF 'Boss', Sqn Ldr Millikin, put the Griffon-engined aircraft through its paces.
Another last minute addition to the flying, and substitute for the absent Lancaster, was B-17G 'Sally B', who made an impression at Airbourne 2016 and was back to do it again this year. Originally Sally B had been slated to appear on both of the weekend days. Although the Sunday display never happened it was good to see an alternative heavy bomber emerge from the distance over Bexhill and circling once more over the sea at Eastbourne.
The Red Arrows displayed on the last three of the four days. Flying at Red 2 was local pilot Flt Lt Toby Keeley. This is his first of a probable three years with the Red Arrows and was his first 'home' display with them, although in 2015 he displayed here as one of the Hawk T2 Role Demo team. As well as the BBMF and the Red Arrows, the RAF also treated Eastbourne to the ever-popular RAF Typhoon on three days and a Chinook display on Sunday. This is one of only eleven public shows where the Chinook was seen in 2017, so it was something of a coup for Airbourne.
Film fans will know that blockbuster "Dunkirk" was released not long before Airbourne. 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, displayed at Airbourne. This is not first film role of the Buchón, which was also flown in the 1968 production of "Battle of Britain" and the 2008 film "Valkyrie" starring Tom Cruise.
Airbourne is good at introducing new displays. As well as Rich Goodwin, this year was also the first for Mark Petrie's Strikemaster and Peter Davies' Autogyro. The autogyro is a diminutive aircraft that can be hard to see at some displays. However, because of its low power, the rules allow Peter to bring it much closer to the display line than other aircraft and he took full advantage, flying over the pier and close to the crowd for a good distance beyond the pier in both directions and fascinating the crowds with the manoeuvrability of the Rotorcraft gyrocopter.
Another F-16 bonus at Airbourne was that there were actually three different aircraft involved in the displays. The "Blizzard" design F-16, which is the principal demonstration aircraft, flew on Thursday, but the team had to go back to Belgium before Friday's Airbourne because of a "technical / logistical problem".
On Friday, two replacement aircraft arrived as a pair and made one pass along the display line before the wingman continued along the coast towards Beachy Head and Gizmo broke off to display in FA-124. On Saturday FA-134 became the display aircraft.
The type of Spitfire that displayed at Airbourne, a PR (Photo Reconnaissance) Mk XlX, holds the world height record for a piston-engined aircraft. The BBMF Spitfire that displayed is painted to represent one flown by Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles, who took his Spitfire PR XIX to 51,550ft in February 1952, a record that has held for over 65 years.
The Strikemaster was another stand-out display, 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 reprised its popular 2016 display on Saturday and Sunday, although the weather forced a curtailment on Saturday when impossible visibility forced the display to be abandoned after a couple of passes.
Until then, the weather had been reasonably kind to Airbourne, with none of the sea mist that has sometimes caused display cancellations in previous years and winds less strong than in 2016. The mostly dry and fair conditions enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people on the promenade and the beaches, broke just that once when the heavy showers that had been seen on the horizon and over the hills earlier in the day decided to pay the coastline a visit. When daytime flying had finished on Sunday the rain returned, but provided an interlude just in time for the spectacular evening flying displays with lighting and fireworks on the aircraft of AeroSparx and the Fireflies.
The Western Lawns, in the centre of the flying display line, were crowded as always, not only with traders but also with military stands from all the armed forces whose personnel could answer any questions from budding candidates. And visitors didn't just have the chance to chat: they could climb a wall, check inside a replica Chinook or see what they look like in an RAF uniform. Airbourne has always provided an excellent opportunity for the forces to engage with the public and for the public to become enthused by what the forces have to offer: local lad and former Park College student Toby Keeley, now Flight Lieutenant Toby Keeley, who was to become the Hawk T2 Role Demo pilot in 2015 and the new Red 2 in 2017 is proof of that.
The usual firework finale was held at 10 p.m. on Sunday, on the sea side of the Western lawns. The same lawns had earlier been the venue for military, charity and civilian stands, a hotspot for the military of all kinds to enlighten an audience eager to learn about life in the services.
Nearby, hit films, Moana, Paddington, Planes 2: Fire & Rescue and The Jungle Book were shown on a huge screen, free of any charge, after the last flying display, and around the coastline there was entertainment ranging from inflatables on the beach to the Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Winter Gardens.
|Red Arrows||Friday 1500|
|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. Neither flew Sunday.)|
|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 in the schedule by Beaver, but in practice it didn't display either)|
Unfortunately the flying line has remained rather distant for most aircraft. This is no fault of the organisers, who are bound by the safety rules, but it is noticeable that most of the displays are further from the crowd than at some aerodrome shows.
It would be good to see a little of the combination flying that Airbourne has managed in the past. At some seaside shows, Rich Goodwin and the Strikemaster have made a joint pass, for example. Sally B and a Mustang were both on the programme, flying separately. A pass with Sally B accompanied by at least one Mustang, recreating the roles played in wartime, which has also been featured elsewhere, would also be good, and although there was a Spitfire and Buchón on the agenda, they flew separately, whereas in the past, and at other shows, there have been tailchases or mock battles. A little dynamism of those kinds or just passes by combinations of aircraft would further enhance what is already a superb, and free, airshow.
The dates for the next three Airbournes have been released: it is definitely worth putting 16th - 19th August 2018, 15th - 18th August 2019 and 13th - 16th August 2020 in the diary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A tremendous free family show and one that deserves the continuing support of local businesses, authorities and residents.
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.
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.
Use Sat Nav BN21 3YT until you get close but follow the local direction signs as soon as you see them. Park and ride is usually available.
There are links to other route planners in the Travel Advice section.
Eastbourne is the nearest station to the show. There are frequent mainline rail services from London, Brighton, Ashford and Hastings.
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.
There is a Premier Inn hotel just a few hundred metres from the flying line and another two within six miles.
There is a Travelodge hotel on the outskirts of the town, about 2 miles from the seafront.
Click any of the blue names to go to the corresponding web site. The links already have the location built in, but please check, and change as necessary, the dates, number of rooms and number of guests.
A full 7 day Eastbourne weather forecast from the UK Met Office
The Met Office 7-day forecast includes actual and "feels like" temperatures, the likelihood of rain, wind speed, wind direction, wind gusts and visibility: the latter can have an impact on the viability of displays.
The BBC's 14-day forecast has overall conditions including and hourly estimate of temperature, wind direction, wind speed and UV range.
Click the blue-text link to go to the forecast. The location is already built into the links.