Garry Lakin reports from Airbourne @ Eastbourne 2005
Four days of free air displays over the south coast resort of Eastbourne drew huge crowds to the seaside town between 11 - 14 August. As usual the event was sponsored by Eastbourne Borough Council and the CSMA. As the days went on the flying display got longer - on Thursday it was three and a half hours, and by Sunday it was nearly five - and all for free! Saturday and Sunday started off with the traditional CSMA motor cavalcade along the promenade - this year there were lots of Ferraris and Harley-Davidsons, with many others thrown in for good measure - even Del Boy and Uncle Albert were there with their 'pristine' Reliant Regal! But most important of all, a wide variety of aircraft showed their capabilities over the sea, from single-seat aerobatic planes to supersonic bombers.
Display teams were in their element over the beaches of the south coast. Libby and Poppy Dover waved to the crowds from the top wings of the Utterly Butterly Boeing Stearman biplanes spreading a smile over people's faces (bad pun, sorry!). The most unusual looking pair of aircraft to display were the Rutan VariEze duo of the 'Patrouille Reva' team from France - these sci-fi style looking aircraft flew a very tight display. The Matadors, flying their Red Bull sponsored SU26s, were unable to make the show so their place was filled by a pair of Yaks (a 50 and 52) and a nice job they did too.
Would you jump out of a serviceable aircraft? Well, the RAF Falcons freefall display team do it for a profession, managing to jump on three of the four days, which they said was the best they had done for the Eastbourne show, the weather being on their side this year. Oh yes, the other display team was the Red Arrows, as polished as ever, superbly entertaining the crowd. On the Friday I watched the display from the top of Beachy Head and was given the best view of a Red that I have ever seen, full whack over our heads at no more than fifty feet. Well worth the £2 all-day car park fee!
Two Aerobatic rivals wooed the crowd with their displays - Denny Dobson in the CSMA Motoring and Leisure-sponsored Extra 300XS threw the aircraft this way and that way and then sideways, stunning. Then there was Will Curtis in the Honda Dream Team-sponsored Sukhoi Su26, Will speaking to the crowd while doing more turns with his aircraft than I would do with a food whisk, and with such a good head wind he just held the aircraft motionless in a vertical position.
Foreign Air Force visitors to the show this year included the Belgian Air Force F-16 Falcon and Fouga Magister. Both put on great displays for the crowd - the Dutch Air Force F-16 had been billed for the weekend but was unable to attend. Then again, when you have a USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer attending everyday you can maybe forgive them. The B-1B was a great addition, giving three flypasts every day, and a better display than had been given at this year's RIAT. On Saturday, which was its only appearance, a Mildenhall KC-135 tanker joined the display, flying with its tailboom refuelling pod extended.
Another aircraft that seems to be at all the airshows this year was a Boeing 757 of parcel delivery company DHL. Nice and low over the sea, this aircraft is quite agile and has a terrific rate of climb - I hope my parcel wasn't in there! Another privately owned participant was the Spitfire XIV flown by John Romain of the Aircraft Restoration Company based at Duxford.
The RAF were at Airbourne in force - Chinook and Merlin helicopters gave impressive displays along the sea front, with the fixed-wing element of the RAF including a Grob Tutor, a Tucano, a Hawk T1, Hercules C-130J doubling as the drop ship for the Falcons, Jaguar GR3, Harrier GR7, Tornado F3 and, for its first display at Eastbourne, the Typhoon T1. The RAF display of course would not have been complete without the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane.
Eastbourne used to have the image of just being a retirement seaside town - forget that image and pop down on the airshow weekend and enjoy one of the best free days out on the south coast. If you can spare two days, spend one of them watching the show from the top of Beachy Head. It is reported that over 800,000 attended over the four days of the show, which culminated in an end of show Fireworks display on Sunday evening.