Weather hits air show crowd numbers

BRITAIN'S dismal summer took its toll on another outdoor event yesterday as first-day visitor numbers for the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival sunk by more than 100,000.

BRITAIN'S dismal summer took its toll on another outdoor event yesterday as first-day visitor numbers for the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival sunk by more than 100,000.

On a grey day by the seaside, several of the key airborne attractions were grounded by high winds at their bases around the country.

Those that got off the ground filled the space between the clouds and the crowds with an electrifying performance for the hardened sky-gazers below, culminating in a heart-stopping rolling display by the RAF's peerless formation team, the Red Arrows.

And as their red, white and blue tail-smoke dissipated into the grey horizon, organisers offered a rallying call to visitors, with better weather forecast for today.


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Paul Bayfield, managing director of the festival, said: “We estimate that between 80,000 and 90,000 people are on the seafront today, but given the weather conditions the number of people who have turned out is humbling. With a much better forecast for the second day, I hope we will be up to our normal levels of 200,000.”

Casualties of yesterday's wind included the Blue Eagles helicopter display team, who were unable to take off from their Hampshire base, and the Battle of Britain memorial flight, which was grounded by severe cross-winds at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

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The show-opening parachute display was also blown away because winds exceeded the 20-knot maximum safe jumping speed.

Lance Corporal Simon Gearing, of the army's Tigers parachute team, said: “Lowestoft is one of the biggest shows we do. The guys were gutted they couldn't jump.”

But spectators, who had been arriving since 4am to mark their territory with a colourful terrace of tents and windbreaks, were able to see a dizzying display by aerobatic ace John Taylor in his Extra 300, and many other fly-pasts.

The theme of this year's event was the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands War and veterans of the conflict were guests of honour at the show.

John Foster, from Carlton Colville, is a former chief petty officer who served on the HMS Arrow - the warship affiliated to the Red Arrows.

“It is a pity about the weather, especially as the parachute drop to commemorate the Falklands campaign had to be cancelled,” he said.

Stephen Brooks, of Grosvenor Road, Lowestoft, was a sergeant in the 12 Air Defence Regiment, which won a Commander in Chief's Commendation for bravery during the conflict.

“It is a great honour to be invited here to celebrate the anniversary, but it brings back lots of memories and not all good ones,” he said.

Police reported no trouble at the event, but the St John Ambulance crew were called in to action when a 46-year-old man suffered a heart attack only 50 yards from their station. They managed to resuscitate him before he was taken to the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

Visitors to today's show can use park and ride sites Dip Farm, Corton (off the A12 north of Lowestoft) and at the Pakefield Rifle Range (on the A12 south of the town). Park and walk sites are available at the Walmer Road recreation ground and Asda in Riverside.

One Railway is also putting on extra trains. Call National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50 for details.

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