This year’s Airbourne at Eastbourne was somewhat marred by the unfortunate fire that gutted the pier several days before the show and thankfully the show was still able to occur. The show featured a large variety of aircraft including one of the most eagerly anticipated debuts in the whole UK airshow season which I will cover later in the review. I attended the show on the Thursday and the Sunday.
The show was opened on Thursday by The Tigers Freefall Team from the British Army’s Princess of Wales Royal Regiment who dropped in to begin the proceedings.
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows attended all four days of the show for the second year running with some very murky conditions when opening the show on Sunday. The team with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As performed excellent routines to celebrate their 50th Anniversary.
In relation to the Red Arrows, The Blades also put on an impressive aerobatic routine over all four days with their fourship of Extra EA-300LPs and are always welcome additions to Airbourne.
Rotary action was also well represented and beginning with the Royal Air Force’s Boeing Chinook HC.2 with its seemingly impossible capabilities and manoeuvrability. The blade slapping helicopter never ceases to amaze and is thankfully seen a lot more at UK shows than in previous years.
But the stars of the show and flying at a UK airshow was a pair of Avro Lancasters flying together which included the ever familiar B.I from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the B.X from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum making its UK debut. This moment also represented the first time these two iconic British bombers have flown together in over fifty years. The Lancasters were also joined by a pair of Supermarine Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with their LF. XVIE and a PR. XIX. The quartet flew in formation before the Spitfires put on a synchro display which preceded the pair of Lancasters which flew some loose but wonderful passes before re-joining the fighters for a final flypast and was truly a momentous occasion. Unfortunately, bad weather severely affecting most of the UK forced the Lancasters and Spitfires to cancel all airshow appearances on the Sunday.
We then moved on to the first classic jets of the show with a great display by a pair of Folland Gnat T.1s from The Gnat Display Team which represented the early years of the Red Arrows in their 50th Anniversary.
American warbirds were demonstrated solely by Peter Teichman and his Hangar 11 collection with the blue-nosed North American P-51D Mustang “Jumpin Jacques” which put on an impressive display of this important World War Two fighter.
The Royal Air Force then took centre stage with their turboprop trainer, the Shorts Tucano T.1 which was sporting the Royal Air Force Association scheme and put on its usual demonstration of its handling qualities.
Next up was the BAC Jet Provost T.5 which was actually the Tucano’s predecessor. The example that displayed was from Jet Aerobatics and has been a regular at the show in the last few years and puts on an entertain display with plenty of topside views.
Another aerobatic team that is always present at the show was the Breitling Wingwalkers with the usual flurry of barnstorming action in addition to the performance of the Wingwalkers on the tops wings of the pair of Boeing-Stearman Kaydets during their routine.
Training aircraft employed by the Royal Air Force once again made an appearance with the Grob G-115E Tutor T.1 which is the first aircraft new pilot’s will train on and the type put on a good routine to show what techniques are required to advance to more complex aircraft such as the Tucano and Hawk.
Other than the Canadian Lancaster the only international participant was the Airbourne debut of the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron with their De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52 which put on a graceful solo display on the Sunday in some of the worst weather conditions and was unfortunate that the second Vampire, T.55 couldn’t attend as well.
When I attended the show on Sunday the two Vans RV-8s of The RV8tors team arrived to perform their usual entertaining aerobatic display but aborted due to the heavy rain and low cloud that suddenly appeared over the seafront.
More helicopter action was provided by the Army Air Corps with the aerobatic Westland Lynx AH Mk. 7 in its final display season. The display was a tad distant at times but was very entertain and will be a shame when the type is finally retired.
There was also a search and rescue demonstration with the Royal Air Force’s Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A. The big yellow helicopter performed the rescue alongside a lifeboat courtesy of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and is always a treat to see at airshows on the coast.
We also had two more displays by Britain’s most iconic fighter of the Second World War, the Supermarine Spitfire with both being from the Duxford based Aircraft Restoration Company. Thursday’s show saw the recently restored Mk. IA perform with some incredible manoeuvres for an early version of the Spitfire. Due to an engine problem over the weekend, Sunday’s show saw a display by the Mk. IXT which actually flew operations during D-Day and appropriately enough was sporting invasion stripes to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings.
The Royal Air Force’s last contribution to the flying display was the ever popular and noisy Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which as usual, ripped through sky in a stunning display of precision and raw power.
The finale for the main flying display on the Sunday was also our last classic jet in the form of the Eastbourne debut of the English Electric Canberra PR.9 from the Midair Squadron. This impressive jet put on a great performance which concluded with a high speed pass which resulted in a very loud and distinctive ‘Blue Note’.
The Airbourne airshow was concluded in the evening light and preceding the music stage’s concert by a pyrotechnic display by Brendan O’Brien in his Piper J-3C-65 Cub as part of O’Brien’s Flying Circus.
This year’s Airbourne has thoroughly out done itself with many fantastic highlights with the star of show obviously being the UK debut of the two Avro Lancasters from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Some over high points of show were the Airbourne debuts of the Midair Squadron’s English Electric Canberra PR.9 and the Royal Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron’s De Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.52. I hope that next year’s Airbourne will continue to surpass expectations. Bring on 2015.
You can also follow me on Twitter