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Major airshow set to be cancelled

PUBLISHED: 06:06 13 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

EUROPE'S biggest military airshow is set to be cancelled for the second consecutive year amid fears the event would be a target for terrorists.

An announcement from RAF officials at the American airbase in Mildenhall confirming the decision to abandon plans for May's annual Air Fete is expected today.

EUROPE'S biggest military airshow is set to be cancelled for the second consecutive year amid fears the event would be a target for terrorists.

An announcement from RAF officials at the American airbase in Mildenhall confirming the decision to abandon plans for May's annual Air Fete is expected today. The move is thought to be linked to the possible war in Iraq.

A spokesman for the United States Air Force at Mildenhall yesterday refused to comment on the matter.

Last year's show was cancelled following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, while 2004's event has already been scratched from official calendars due to major runway resurfacing work at the base.

“Everyone knows that Mildenhall Air Show is one of the biggest events in the region, and it brings a lot of money into the local area,” said Labour MEP Richard Howitt. “I will be concerned if the postponement is confirmed this year.

“However, these are exceptional times of international crisis which do justify exceptional decisions, but I hope the situation will be kept under constant review for the benefit of local people.”

Last week, nervous residents living near the base expressed concerns that thousands of people and millions of pounds worth of military hardware expected at the show would present an easy target for terrorists.

Speaking last Wednesday, Beck Row parish councillor Laurie Wallace said: “If you get a massive gathering of people in a confined place, then of course there is potential for an attack.

“The show should definitely be cancelled. The security levels at the base have been a knee-jerk reaction to the threat, but it would be a double standard if any Tom, Dick or Harry was let onto the base for the Air Fete.”

His views were echoed by parish council chairman Philip Haylock, who said: “The world situation is in a very precarious state and the vast majority of people who have spoken to me say it should not go ahead this year - it would be a target and people are nervous.”

The show attracted more than half a million visitors in 2001, and is usually a business bonanza for pubs, restaurants and hotels across the area.

If the expected announcement is made this morning, the news will provide a major blow for the local economy.

It will also be the third time in five years the two-day event has been called off, as in 1999, the show was cancelled because of the events in Kosovo.


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