Poll: Bid to see RAF Mildenhall air show return for ‘last hurrah’ before closure
One “last hurrah” for RAF Mildenhall could see the famed air show return, with hopes it will strengthen ties between the US Air Force and the community.
The Air Fete was Europe’s biggest air show, but increased security concerns after the 9/11 terrorist attacks meant the show never returned after 2001.
Forest Heath District Council leader James Waters is pushing the USAF to hold the air show as a “thank you” to the residents of west Suffolk and a celebration of the base’s 80 year history.
With the base facing an uncertain future after it closes in four to seven years, Mr Waters said an air show could also serve to advertise Forest Heath, keeping it on the international stage.
“I have spoken to both base commanders (RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall) and the commander of the USAF in Europe,” said Mr Waters, who represents Eriswell and The Rows on the council.
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“I said one last air show, a last hurrah, would be a fantastic way to say thank you to those living in Forest Heath.
“No one I have spoken have said it is not possible, in fact the reaction has been very positive. There is an appetite for it.”
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Whilst Mildenhall is closing, with 3,200 airmen leaving, RAF Lakenheath is welcoming two squadrons of F-35 Lightning jets, with an additional 1,200 airmen.
Mr Waters said: “Ever since 2001, and 9/11, the relationship between the community and the bases has never been the same.
“An air show would be an excellent way to open up the relationship again, create stronger ties and let the people in the community know what is going on behind the gates, and vice a versa.
“Mildenhall may be closing but we will still have thousands of airmen based at RAF Lakenheath, it will be a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the relationship with the USAF.”
The base closure was announced by the US Department of Defence in January this year, with the district council working since then to prepare for life afterwards.
Mr Waters hopes the base will have a civilian aviation use after the USAF leave, and has been pushing the UK Ministry of Defence, who own the airfield, to decide whether they intend to use it after the Americans leave.
Mr Waters added: “Its one of the longest runways in Europe, it has world class facilities to go with it. As the Americans leave, the air show would reinforce the area’s reputation on the global stage, it will keep us on the map.”
A Facebook campaign group has been set up asking for “just one more” air show. The group, called “Please organise one last RAF Mildenhall Air Show before the base closes” currently has 191 supporters.