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Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival, 3/4 August

Gary Stedman reports: The fourth annual Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival was once again staged during the first week of August. This year, as in previous years, many of the participants operated from Norwich, but unlike previous years the organisers were able to call upon aircraft scheduled to appear at the Norwich Airport Diamond Jubilee Airshow during the forthcoming weekend. Like most seafront displays, Lowestoft's Air Festival is free and attracts a audience that perhaps would not be regular airshow attendees, the emphasis is very much on providing a fun day out for a family with attractions along the seafront and both days concluding with a seafront fireworks display.

Unfortunately, as with so many shows this year, the weather intervened. Thursday's display was heavily affected, with several downpours during the afternoon forcing the crowds to take shelter. In total contrast, Friday's display was graced with bright sunshine, only a few dark clouds momentarily causing concern.

The Red Arrows attended on both days, the crowd duly showing its appreciation with a round of applause. A Harrier GR7 from 20(R) Squadron was also a crowd stopper, its VIFFing routine certainly looking impressive over the sea. It can only be imagined what this would have sounded like from the end of Lowestoft's Claremont pier, the Harrier seemingly hovering only a few feet away. In addition to the Harrier, the RAF provided further heavy metal in the form of the Tornado GR1 and Jaguar GR3 display aircraft. A regular act that always attracts much interest is the Utterly Butterly Barnstormers, who with their wing walking antics have become a Lowestoft crowd favourite. Carolyn Grace's Spitfire T9 was another welcome participant, although if memory serves last year she displayed in another Spit, ML407 being grounded at the time. Also, the inclusion in the flying programme of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's DC3 Dakota as well as the regular trio was very welcome.

The Scandinavian Historic Flight were present in some strength, with an A26 Invader, Mustang, Hunter and Vampire all providing solo routines. Spectacular aerobatics were provided by the Microlease Extra 300L, and no display would be complete without a routine from a Pitts Special. The Fouga Magister's arrival caused a stir, appearing from behind the Claremont pier at low level, smoke on. On the Friday one of Lowestoft's tugs provided some local flavour, before being 'sunk' by a pair of Yak 50s, who made some low passes in a display of loud bangs and pyrotechnics.

In its short history, Lowestoft's Air Festival has grown into a major local attraction and Waveney District Council should be congratulated for showing the commitment to stage such a event. The council's foresight certainly appears to be appreciated, it's believed that over 130,000 attended the event over the two days. The only downside appears to have been the affect upon Norwich Airports event, which by all accounts was poorly attended.

Despite its obvious popularity, the future of the Air Festival is in some doubt. Waveney District Council rely upon European funding to stage the event, this year being the last funding was assured although the council is confident further European support would become available. Whatever the outcome, next year's event is provisionally planned for Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July, a week earlier than normal. Book that beach chalet now...


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