Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival cleared for take-off

With fun both in the sky and on the ground, entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE looks at how you can help make the festival a success, where to park and how it’s helping make RAF history.

For the first time in Royal Air Force history, a female pilot will fly a solo jet for a public airshow display at this year’s festival - and she’s from this region.

Cambridge-born Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming, 32, was awarded a RAF flying scholarship while at Ipswich High School.

She completed it during her GAP year then gained her private pilot’s licence at Seawing Flying Club, Southend.

After teaching youngsters to ride horses in America she began her initial officer training in 1999. An experienced front-line fast jet pilot, she joins the RAF solo and team display teams after flying the Tornado GR4 in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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She’ll be in the BAE Hawk T Mk1, capable of up to 630mph, during next Thursday and Friday’s festival.

“Not everyone gets the chance to do this and from a professional perspective that was the motivation for the job,” says Jules, who’s also an accomplished horsewoman and motor sport racer.

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“There was personal gratification even just to be short-listed but to have actually got the job is awesome.”

It’s the second time a female pilot has been chosen as a member of a RAF display team.

Last year Flt Lt Kirsty Moore became the first woman to fly a Hawk jet with the world-famous aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows.

Kirsty is now in her second year of a three-year term with the Reds and returns with them to Lowestoft this year.

More than 400,000 people are expected to land on Lowestoft seafront next Thursday and Friday for the 15th air festival, with organisers promising it’ll be the best yet.

Putting last year’s wash-out woes behind them, visitors can expect everything from wing walking and search and rescue displays to all manner of planes from yesteryear right up to the present day.

“I think this year’s programme is probably the best yet,” says managing director Paul Bayfield, adding they’ve stuck with family favourites such as the British acrobatic Red Bull Matadors, who are 747 pilots in their everyday lives.

“They’ve got some brand new aircraft and the display last year was just wow, I think this year it’s going to be wow wow,” he laughs.

Ground-based attractions include a funfair, amusements, military displays and stands, trade stalls, an Italian market, live bands, parachute drops and much more.

A bargain for just �3.

“We’ve taken quite a profound decision to up the recommended donation to �3. The frustrating thing is we started off at a �1; with 400,000 people on that seafront if everybody just put a �1 we would have the best airshow in the UK,” sighs Paul.

“I hope this year people support us because it’s just such amazing value for money; where else could you see aeroplanes of the quality of the Red Arrows for �3?

“It’s really, really important we get the message out there that we’re doing it for all the right reasons; for the economy and local businesses [worth more than �11.9million according to an independent tourism board report], for tourism [worth �500,000 in terms of advertising and promoting the area] and let’s not forget charities as well,” he stresses.

This year’s festival will support 34 different local and regional organisations varying from cancer charities to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

After last year’s show almost �28,000 was put back into the community through the charitable partner organisations who help festival organisers.

“Come and watch some fantastic aerial displays on award-winning beaches that are probably some of the best in the area. You get a fabulous display and if you haven’t been for a year or two come back and give us a look; it doesn’t always rain in Lowestoft,” Paul laughs.

“Three pound in the bucket that’s all we ask and it’ll be a fabulous day out.”

All the main seafront car parks will be closed and most of the on-street parking in Marine Parade and Kirkley Cliff will be coned off. There’ll be additional parking a short walk away from the south beach at Pakefield Cliffs, with disabled car parking at Belvedere Road car park.

There’s a park and ride bus scheme operating out of Dip Farm and Africa Alive, Kessingland; and Park and Walk is available from ASDA in Horn Hill costing �10 per car, with a donation to the air festival and Kirkley and Pakefield Football Club costing �8 per car.

A full breakdown of displays and timings over the two days are available in the official fundraising souvenir programme, available now.

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