Air show set to be record-breaker

GALLERY The sun-baked Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival enjoyed a record-breaking first day yesterday as the world's only airworthy Vulcan Bomber joined forces with some old favourites to wow the crowds.

THE sun-baked Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival enjoyed a record-breaking first day yesterday as the world's only airworthy Vulcan Bomber joined forces with some old favourites to wow the crowds.

Glorious summer weather meant the beach and promenade were packed long before the 12th annual show under way at 1pm.

And by the end of more than four hours of flying, the official figure for visitors stood at 220,000 - although other estimates put the crowd as high as 325,000.

With bigger attendances traditionally recorded on the second day of the show, the previous combined record of 420,000 is almost certain to be eclipsed by the end of today, which is set to enjoy more sun and high temperatures.

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After much planning, the awesome Avro Vulcan Bomber majestically soared into view at 4pm for one of its first appearances since its £6m restoration.

The sheer size of the plane and the noise it created transfixed the crowds packed along the seafront, but there were plenty of other stunning displays to keep them entertained.

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The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, featuring a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane, gave a performance in keeping with the show's celebration of the 90th anniversary of the RAF, while the fantastic aerobatics of the Red Arrows brought the successful event to a close at just before 5.30pm.

Only a year ago, first day rain had a severe impact on the attendances, but it was a different story yesterday for festival managing director Paul Bayfield.

“I'm absolutely delighted. The have a crowd in excess of 200,000 is excellent,” he said. “This is the true Lowestoft Air Festival and this is the way we want it to be. To physically see the Vulcan was quite emotional although my favourite display has got to be the Typhoon.”

This year's show, sponsored by the Lowestoft Together community group, has cost £320,000 to stage and Mr Bayfield admitted soaring fuel costs meant organisers had to look at a more cost-effective line-up. However, he hoped the crowd had been entertained and donated generously to the scores of collectors around the seafront.

“There are even more aircraft this year, but of a slightly different type. I think we've got a better balance this year,” added Mr Bayfield. I'm keen to get over the point that he people who donated money in 2007 are the reason we are here in 2008.”

The Blue Eagles - the British Army's helicopter display team - took to the sky in celebration of their 40th anniversary and Capt Gus Aylward said: “It's a really special season for us.”

Speaking after the appearance of the Vulcan Bomber, visitor Allan Griffiths, from Martham, said: “It was just incredible really, just awesome. I've seen it on the ground but this was the first time in the skies. It was definitely worth coming today.”

Mike Field, from Lowestoft, added: “It was great, it's a fantastic plane.”

Lowestoft entrepreneur Will King, who founded King of Shaves grooming products, combined business with pleasure and chose the festival to launch a new razor that was five years in development.

“It has been brilliant and the weather is awesome, I can't believe how busy it is,” he said.

A spokesman for the police said a large number of youngsters went missing from their parents and urged visitors to today's show to get their children fitted with several tags available from money collectors, programme sellers and the coastguard.

Bus operators put on extra services after early delays.

n Today's show gets under way at noon with the Red Arrows.

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