Bournemouth Air Festival

Here in Bournemouth, we save the best for last. This is a seaside town, and summer is the money season, when city dwellers escape the smog and head for the pristine-ish beaches of the south coast. The carousel starts spinning in May for the early comers, the smell of fish and chips saturates the promenade, the sand disappears beneath a heaving mass of burning red human flesh and every Friday night there’s a big firework display off the end of the pier.

But like I say, the best is saved for last. Over four days at the end of August the Bournemouth Air Festival takes place. The roads into town become even more clogged than usual, and the sea sees more traffic than at any other time of year. I’d quite like to watch the show from the deck of a yacht myself. But I’m no millionaire one per center. Or from a balcony on one of the posh (but rather run down looking) art deco style hotels along the seafront? They go for a couple of thousand pounds a night, or so I hear. No, I settle for a perch on the cliff top. It’s free. And truth be told, it’s probably the best view anyway. They do say the best things in life are free, and here’s your perfect example.


A huge assortment of planes grace the skies over the four days. The Red Arrows usually open or close the show. They are the people’s favourite. It’s easy to understand why. They’re loud, they’re fast, they do cool tricks, but best of all they do all that coloured smoke. I like the Red Arrows. But they aren’t quite my favourite. Tricks and smoke are great, but when it comes to planes I’m a noise junkie. My favourite regular at Bournemouth is the Vulcan. It’s an awesome piece of machinery. Sadly, due to it’s age and the limited budget of its keepers, it’s also notoriously unreliable. It was scheduled for just one run this year but in the end failed to manage even that. A leaky fuel tank, I believe. Still, here’s a video someone shot during its display at Bournemouth last year.

But I’m not going to grumble. Us noise junkies weren’t entirely left disappointed. Not at all. We had a new visitor this year. Or at least a returning one, after something of an absence. The RAF Typhoon. Noise? You can feel the noise when this baby turns on the afterburners. I work in an office half a mile back from the beach. On the top floor though, so the view is good. The windows shook on the Friday when its did its thing during work hours. But seeing it close up on Saturday was better.

For those with a more historical interest in planes, there were a few flights of interest. Sally B, a B-17 Flying Fortress is a global superstar. If you ever watched the movie Memphis Belle, then you’ve met Sally B. There was a Meteor and a Vampire, two pioneering British fighter jets that flew at the end of World War 2. The multi coloured Miss Demeanour packs a full arsenal of history, colour and noise. And what British air show would be complete without a Spitfire and a Lancaster? None, is the answer.

If the images below aren’t enough for you, then you can see the whole set on 500px. Or you can go see my air show set on Flickr, which is home to the photos I have taken from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 shows.


8 thoughts on “Bournemouth Air Festival

    • Alas, the days of the Vulcan are numbered. I hear that the 2014 show will be the last time a Vulcan flies. There is just one example left in an airworthy state, and costs of keeping it airborne are simply too great.


    • For all the money spent on designing, developing and putting the V bombers (Vulcan, Vanguard and Victor) into the skies to ‘keep us safe’, only one of them actually ever dropped any bombs on anyone. And even then it was just a single payload with no casualties caused. The Vulcan in the video I linked to was the culprit, and the bombs landed on the runway of the Falkland Islands. Just to let the Argies know that we had arrived and meant business. And that they shouldn’t use this runway…

      Mexico? Stay tuned…


  1. ricardomontoya says:

    Wow! I looked at the picture on here, on 500px, and on Flickr. I think that they look best on 500px. The air plane pickers were great but so too were those of the folks enjoying themselves on the beach.


    • A lot of fun was had by all. I mentioned a few different vantage points to view the proceedings. The one I didn’t mention, and perhaps the most spectacular of them all, was from one of those cockpits…


  2. I’ve never been to an airshow, though I don’t live far from the airport. But all those planes are of the rather boring (and even more uncomfortable) passenger variety.

    I guess I’ll have to go to Bournemouth one of these years.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we fortunately don’t hear much noise from the planes.


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