Anger as public not invited to air show

MILITARY chiefs have come under fire after it emerged an anniversary air show would this year be staged for the benefit of just a few hundred local dignitaries and the media.

Laurence Cawley

MILITARY chiefs have come under fire after it emerged an anniversary air show would this year be staged for the benefit of just a few hundred local dignitaries and the media.

Base commanders at RAF Mildenhall have not invited the general public to its 75th anniversary event on Friday because of “operational requirements, security concerns and limited resources”.

It is the first show to be held since RAF Mildenhall scrapped its annual air shows - which drew in as many as 500,000 people - in 2001.

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The one-day show will include static displays by most of the planes flown by the USAF in Europe such as F-15s, F-16s, A-10s, KC-135s and C-130s, an air display by a Spitfire and a re-enactment of the start of the England to Australia race by Tiger Moths.

But the decision to keep the general public out has been questioned by some in the town who claim other bases manage to lay on full scale air shows and maintain security.

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One of them is Paul Coppin, of Mildenhall, who was one of 12 plane spotters held in a Greek jail on suspicion of spying in 2001.

“I don't know why they have got so much security there when there are other bases which do manage to host air shows. I don't know whether they can't be bothered to hold it anymore.

“Financially it was a big loss to the area and it is a shame they don't do it any more. It was a big thing and a popular thing not just for aviation enthusiasts but for whole families.”

Brian Moore, secretary of the Bury Large Model Flying Club, said: “It is a great shame. As modellers we are devastated that there are aircraft there and the general public is not allowed in. The US is the US and they are far more sensitive about security than we are.”

David Bowman, chairman of the Mildenhall Community Partnership, said: “The loss of the air show, and it was a spectacular event, has meant some businesses have not made the annual profit they otherwise would have, with the loss of the public coming to the event over the two days and their spending power. “Those that are attending the day on Friday are privileged and it is a pity that it could not be open to the general public, but security is at the forefront of everybody's minds and is understandable.”

A spokesman for RAF Mildenhall said: “The event is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the missions the base has hosted over the last seven decades in support of RAF and U.S. Air Force operations.

“Likewise, it is an opportunity to honour the commitment of the men and women, both military and civilian, who have served here.

“Due to operational requirements, security concerns and limited resources, this event is not open to the general public.”

County councillor Colin Noble, one of those to be invited to the show, said: “It is a shame, it is very disappointing, but completely understandable. We live in a different age.

Mr Noble is standing for re-election for the Row Heath division on Suffolk County Council. The other candidates are: Thomas Caple (Lab), Eleanor Minshall (LD) and Ian Smith (UKIP).

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