Bournemouth skies come alive at the annual airshow
One of the hottest events on the town’s entertainment calendar, the Bournemouth Air Festival in August-September welcomes more than a million people every year to this thrilling family spectacle. The event makes headlines around the world and has been voted one of the ten best air shows on the planet by USA Today. The Air Festival is absolutely free and has attracted more than seven million people to the resort since it started back in 2008. The event also has a charitable purpose and has raised close to hundreds of thousands of pounds for various Air Festival charities (nominated by the participating Armed Forces).
The air show is rapidly becoming one of the top tourist events in the country, a fact recognised by the prestigious national GOLD award it received in 2015 from Visit England. So don’t miss summer 2018’s event, the Bournemouth Air Festival’s eleventh year, from 30 August to 2 September 2018. Get your camera ready, pick the best vantage point on the beach and brace yourself for another dazzling aerobatics display.
Award-winning seasonal spectacle
Whizzing across the seafront, hundreds of miles an hour, the speed, sheer power and aerobatic versatility of the participating planes is without doubt an awe-inspiring, adrenalin-pumping spectacle. From retired war planes to the latest airborne innovations, it’s a spectacular showcase of engineering and flight mastery.
Since 2008 the Air Festival has attracted millions of spectators to our picturesque coastal resort, enjoying the skies painted with colourful planes expertly flown by the bravest and boldest pilots. The event brings a new level of thrill to the popular summer season, with visitors spilling into the resort’s landmark hotels and quaint B&Bs wanting to bag a beach-side seat in the thick of the action. Alternatively take a pew at one of the town’s smart restaurants, cocktail bars or browse around the fairground rides and stalls while keeping your eyes on the skies waiting for that thrilling rumble of the Red Arrows Display Team.
Stretching across the town’s world-famous seven miles of sandy beaches, get ready to be wowed, as you watch multiple loops and rolls, aeronautical tricks and the slickest close formation flying from Bournemouth to Boscombe. From historic flying machines to jets and display teams, the Royal Army and Navy test their flying mettle demonstrating the best they have to offer on land, air and sea. Watch parachute display teams descend amidst plumes of coloured smoke, marvel at the formidable warships surveying the action out to sea and prepare to be dazzled by the world-loved Red Arrows.
The 2018 line-up is yet to be confirmed, but in previous years the Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon has thrilled festival visitors with its unmistakable bellow as it sweeps along the coastline. And the Swiss Air Force often join the festival with the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Puma Display Team to dazzle the crowds. On sea, a magnificent flotilla of ships including HMS Middleton, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Dasher, HMS Express and RFA Argus offer a rare visual spectacle for all to enjoy.
World-class Red Arrows
In 2017, the spectacular Red Arrows performed three out of four days of the festival. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team is one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams and it has a fond and devoted following in the town. Representing the speed, agility and precision of the RAF, the team is the public face of the service, flying distinctive Hawk jets. Since flying for the first time in 1965, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team has performed more than 4,660 times across the globe.
The Bournemouth crowds are always keen to pay tribute to Jon Egging, the Red 4 pilot who lost his life at the Bournemouth air festival in 2011. The Jon Egging Trust is working to support and inspire young people to be the very best they can be and has strong links to Dorset, reaching out to support 1000 people in the county every year. The Trust and Egging’s family and former colleagues hold a proud place in the hearts of many here.
Marvellous aerial displays
Each year crowds whoop with joy and marvel at the incredible displays from the RAF’s latest multi-role fast jet, the Typhoon, to the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight featuring a Lancaster Bomber, a Spitfire and a Hurricane. The Chinook Mk2 helicopter team is always a hit with the crowds. For gravity-defying, jaw-dropping beauty, The Blades, is a fantastic aerobatic display team performing incredible flying displays across the world. The pilots showcase their amazing skill and experience in over 30 separate manoeuvres where they approach fast and low over the heads of the awe-struck seafront crowds at combined speeds of over 400mph.
Crowds roar as planes soar
Coloured smoke billowing behind a sky full of parachutes and flags flying, The Tigers who came to tea. Experienced parachutists from The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment’s Parachute display team, The Tigers, literally drop out of the sky to perform amazing formations both in the air and under the parachute – you’ll be gritted to the spot ogling at the formations and precision of these expert fliers
A versatile and innovative aviation act loved by crowds in the UK and Europe, O’Brien’s Flying Circus performs over the Bournemouth promenade with billowing pyrotechnics and bellowing fireworks to create an exciting, awe-inspiring display. Accompanying O’Brien’s Flying Circus for the festival’s twilight ‘Night Air’ displays is The Fire Flies, a memorable new attraction last year. The Twister Duo Aerobatics Team are always a popular attraction, especially during the Night Air displays and The British Army’s Parachute Regiment Display Team, The Red Devils, are not to be missed.
Four-day display team fun
Often performing across all the four days are the Black Cats Helicopter Display Team, made up of two formidable machines – the AW159 Wildcat and HMA MK2.
Also in town for the full four-day run are the RAF Hawk T2 Role Demo Team: the public face of Number 4 Flying Training School and proud local plane the De Havilland Sea Vixen, which likes to create some noise over the bay. Back again this year will be the Patrouille Reva, an aerobatic team made up of three ‘Acroez’ two-seater composite aircraft. Aerosparx was another new addition last year a brand new aerobatic team displaying across Europe, set to return and wow the town in 2018.
With 1.5 miles of trading stalls and ground displays set up between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers and at Pier Approach, the crowds are entertained for hours when their heads aren’t in the clouds, with exhibitions, collectibles and meet-and-greets from some of the air festival stars.
A pop-up Royal Navy and Army Village showcases the forces’ land, sea and air responsibilities with a variety of static and interactive displays – giving you a close-up look at what goes on up in the clouds or out on the warships basking in the Bournemouth bay. Marvel at the unarmed combat demonstrations and the historic Beat Retreat (Friday and Saturday). Visitors to the ticketed concert on Thursday evening will also be treated to a performance by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood.
You won’t be able to miss the RAF village, with its full-size Chinook mock-up ready for closer inspection. They’re also bringing some of the RAF Central Band, a 591 Signals Unit, No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron, No 1 Radio School and the RAF Recruiting and Motivational Outreach team if you’ve been inspired by what you’ve seen to find out more about a career in the forces.
A number of the participating display teams and associated charities also set up stands, including the unmistakable Red Arrows.
If you’re up for even more, the dedicated Pier Approach stage and funfair provides hours of entertainment day and dusk for the whole family.
When the sun sets, the Air Festival action continues apace with the ‘Night Air’ programme based on both piers offering great entertainment at Bournemouth and Boscombe.
Previous years, crowds have enjoyed ‘Proms on the Beach’ with the Band of HM Royal Marines Collingwood, ‘Pop Night’ with Alesha Dixon, former Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding, Fuse ODG, Lawson and Scouting For Girls and ’25 Years on Dance,’ with acts including Livin’ Joy ft Luzahnn, K Klass, Karen Harding, Artful (Artful Dodger’s Mark Hill) and Black Box! A sizzling firework display on Friday and Saturday night rounds off events with the bang they deserve.
Tickets can be purchased from BH Live or from the box office at the Bournemouth International Centre or Pavilion. But be quick, they’ll be snapped up fast once they go on sale.
See it in style
Bournemouth air festival is a fantastic, free, family event that can be enjoyed for a radius of miles – from the seven miles of seafront, from the airport, your local play park, from the town square or even your own back garden. But if you want to survey the skies in style there are lots of bespoke hospitality packages available to really indulge yourself at the event.
Bournemouth Air Festival itself offers VIP Hospitality for each of the four days. The VIP marquee is the only hospitality venue right on the beach itself, directly under the flight path, serving a two-course lunch, afternoon cream tea, an evening meal (Thursday only) and providing a VIP bar and viewing deck, private toilets and unprecedented access to passing display teams.
The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) offers a daily hospitality package Thursday to Saturday with a hot carvery bar, seafood, charcutiere and salad tables, live cooking station and summer cocktails. On the Sunday they have a popular summer barbecue. All hospitality is in the Purbeck Hall and out on the terrace, overlooking Bournemouth beach and pier.
A number of beachfront hotels also lay on their own hospitality packages, taking advantage of their favourable settings to spoil their patrons. Check out the deals at the Cumberland, the Miramar, the Cottonwood, the Carlton, the Marriott, the Royal Bath, the Suncliff and more and book your space right at the heart of the action!
Over 1.3 million people come for the Bournemouth Air Festival each year so it’s not surprising to find yourself stuck in a traffic jam if you head into town just when the Red Arrows are gearing up to start the proceedings. If you want to take your car, you will find ample places to park around Boscombe, Bournemouth and Poole as long as you get here early enough (say 8-9am) ready to spend the day. If you’d rather come in a little later, be prepared to park further out or take advantage of the town’s excellent public transport services. Extra buses are laid on into town to make sure the service keeps running efficiently and there are two efficient Park and Ride systems that operate across the four days:
THE LITTLEDOWN CENTRE, BH7 7DX
Saturday 9am – 10.30pm and Sunday 9am – 7pm
REDHILL PARK, BH9 2SW
Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am – 7pm each day
If you are driving, be mindful of road and car park closures – some of the Bournemouth town centre parking may be reserved for exhibitors or disabled visitors and some roads are closed to circulating traffic. Event staff will be available by the road closures with advice and the event is well manned by the town’s fabulous and friendly fleet of volunteer ‘Festival Makers.’
If you’re coming in by coach or train, you can walk down to the East Overcliff in 10 minutes and you’ll have a great vantage point from which to select your perfect plane viewing spot on the sand below. Or join the crowds avoiding the beach in favour enjoying a picnic and an ice cream on the grassy clifftops.
Of course, the festival is easily accessible by taxi, by bike and on foot. The beauty of the event is that you can choose any point along Bournemouth’s seven golden sandy miles, set up camp and enjoy uninterrupted views of the breath-taking spectacle unfolding high in the sky.
It’s your choice whether to join the masses and soak in the atmosphere between the piers (with big screens and PA commentaries) or head for the relative peace of Hengistbury Head to the East or the Chines and Sandbanks to the West for ample space on the beach for the kids to run and you to set up camp and camera!