Thousands flock to Clacton air show

TENS of thousands of people flocked to Clacton today for the annual air show.

James Hore

TENS of thousands of people flocked to Clacton today for the annual air show.

The two-day spectacular kicked off in style with the Essex Air Ambulance as record crowds packed the beach, promenade and pier for the afternoon of flying festivities.

The beach was awash with windbreaks and shelters as families enjoyed the glorious sunshine, in stark contrast to some dismal weather at last year's event.

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Up to 130,000 are expected during the two days of the flying organised by Tendring District Council.

Following on from the air ambulance were The Blades - the UK's “most extreme” formation aerobatic team.

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The four pilots, who have all served with the RAF, twisted, turned and spun their way through the sky to the amazement of the crowd.

Other highlights of the afternoon included the Guinot Wingwalkers - the world's only formation wingwalking team.

Starting with a loop the loop, the two daring wingwalkers waved at the crowd and performed aerial gymnastics against the 150mph wind pressure whilst experiencing forces of up to four G.

The two planes filled the coastal air with smoke as they looped, dipped and crossed through the sky.

The ever-popular Battle of Britain Memorial Flight drew warm applause from the crowds as the Lancaster bomber, flanked by a Hurricane and Spitfire passed over the beach.

Saved until last, the star attraction of The Red Arrows spent half an hour wowing the crowds with stunning formation flying along the coast drawing gasps as they criss-crossed over the beach.

Other popular attractions on the day included the Swift Team which saw a glider towed up above the town before it carried out a series of spectacular loop to loops, corkscrewing and flying upside down.

One of the noisiest attractions of the day was the Hunter, sprayed garish pink and yellow with engines as loud as the colours.

The RAF's King Air also did a flight, as did the classic American plane - the Mustang.

Peter Etherington, from Chelmsford, joined friend Neil Cornwell to spend an afternoon on the beach.

Mr Ehtherington said: “I am enjoying it, yes - it is the first time that I have been. We have all met up here and it looks like it is going to be a lovely day.

And Mr Cornwell, who lives in Clacton, added: “We have been coming since 2001 and have been every year since then - the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain flight are the ones that really are special.

“You can't beat the Red Arrows can you? We sat here in the rain last year with plastic sheets over us, so you could say that it has been nicer."

Ann and Terry Wishart , from Braintree, brought their 10-year-old grandson, Fergus, for the day.

Mrs Wishart said: “We have been here quite a while ago. What a day - it could not be better weather.

“We like all the displays - it's lovely to see it all and all the talented pilots that we have got. We are sorry that the Vulcan is not here this year - you can normally hear its rumbling right through you.

Nicola Morley and her friend Sharon McThail, from Laindon, were staying in a caravan in Clacton.

Miss Morley said: “We are having a lovely time here. We were at V Festival at the weekend and now this, so it has been a good week.

“My mum has a caravan up here so we are staying here - we love it up here in Clacton and this is a great day out.”

- Day two of the air show, which is a free event, begins at 12.30pm tomorrow and sees the Red Arrows take to the sky at 1pm.

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