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Hurricane Coast

Garry Lakin reports on Airbourne @ Eastbourne, 16-19 August 2007. Pictures by the author and Bob Franklin

Blown about #1

'Airbourne' once again returned to Eastbourne for a four-day festival of flying, crowds of up to 800,000 over the four days being reported, even though the weather wasn't the best at the resort with strong winds battering the South Coast, resulting in a difficult time for all participants, especially the RAF Falcons (see end of report).

The show started on Thursday with the best day of weather over the four days, the display being just over three hours long, although each day had a varied programme. Friday's highlight was the demonstration by the United States Air Force of a MC-130 Hercules refuelling a MH-53M helicopter.

As always the RAF support for this show was second to none, but due to overseas commitments the jets this year were at an all time low with just the Typhoon and Hawk displayed to the massive crowds. At least the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight displayed a Spitfire and Hurricane on all four days of the show. Saturday's show started with the crowd's favourites, the Red Arrows - as always a wonderful show put on by the nine Hawks, although the team had to put on their low-level display as the threatening rain clouds stayed low across the coast line. The Grob Tutor T1 was put through its paces everyday by Flt Lt Andy Preece, the 2007 display pilot; next step up from the Tutor is the Shorts Tucano T1, the display flown by Flt Lt Bobby Moore of 72(R) Squadron, part of 1 FTS. The RAF also brought along the Chinook HC2 display, remarkable agility for a helicopter of its size.

Once again the RAF demonstrated all the different trades that are the backbone of the RAF from giant-sized fuel trucks, which fuel aircraft in combat zones, down to the staff peeling onions in the catering tent. In the arena it was the RAF Police Dog handlers displaying the duties and training of their Alsatians, from attacking intruders and guard duty to jumping through rings of fire.

Blown about #2

Belgium contributed to the show by bringing along a Sea King which, along with the local RNLI lifeboat, demonstrated the delivery and pickup of a person using the helicopter's winch. UK rotary participation came from the Army's Helicopter team, the Blue Eagles, with their four Gazelles and a Lynx AH1 putting on a non-stop display of formation helicopter flying with the Lynx performing back flips and barrel rolls.

Aerobatics were in great evidence over the weekend - the Royal Jordanian Falcons in their Extra 300s were performing their second and only seaside airshow in the UK in 2007 and another team of Extras, the Blades, were at Eastbourne again, showing off skills learnt whilst its pilots were in the Red Arrows. Yet another Extra 300 was to follow in the shape of the Ultimate High 'Team', this solo display of the aircraft's agility by John Taylor. Also spinning and rolling around the sky in gut-wrenching manoeuvres was Will Curtis in his Sukhoi Su26, with an engine now configured to produce 525 hp.

The largest participant of the weekend by far was the Oasis Hong Kong Boeing 747-400 that made an appearance at the show on Saturday - it was an amazing sight to see this Jumbo below the level of Beachy Head as it made three flypasts, the final one with an incredible climb away into the clouds.

Second World War aircraft were the real stars of the show; on Saturday not one, but two, Me 108s simulated an attack on a boat, which started to stream smoke from its stern - this was the cue for two Hurricanes to come in and hunt down the attacking aircraft. Displays were also performed by a two-seat Spitfire TIX from John Romain's Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford and American fighters from the Second World War were represented by Peter Teichman's P-51D Mustang 'Jumpin' Jacques' and P-40M Kittyhawk.

It was a shame the weather wasn't more on the side of the organisers, Eastbourne Borough Council, who put together a very good show. Let's pray for better weather next year.

I'm sure that everyone who reads this report would wish Sgt Rich Cross of the Falcons Parachute team a speedy recovery - he landed very heavily in the display arena on Sunday and was taken to Eastbourne General Hospital with extensive injuries.

 

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