Thousands set to flock to seafront air festival

FINAL preparations are being made over the coming few days for the biggest event on the calendar in East Anglia.

Last year it attracted up to 400,000 people and, weather permitting, organisers are hoping to match it at this year’s Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival.

It takes place next Thursday and Friday with a huge flying display scheduled for both days.

Among those out to thrill spectators will be reigning Red Bull Air Race world champion Paul Bonhomme, who is one half of the aerobatic duo known as the Red Bull Matadors when he’s not competing in the high-octane Red Bull air races or at his day job flying a Boeing 747 for British Airways.

With partner Steve Jones – another Boeing 747 pilot and a former British aerobatics champion – the Matadors perform spectacular aerobatics at airshows around the world.

Flying their Russian-built Sukhoi Su-26 aircraft, the dynamic duo have performed across the UK and Europe and have toured China, Japan and the Middle East in the FAI World Grand Prix series – an aerobatic competition with solo and formation categories.

It’s their first visit to the festival, where they are due to perform both days.

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The Matadors are just one highlight of a spectacular flying programme consisting of more than four-and-a-half hours on both days.

“The pilots displaying in the many teams this year are demonstrating the concentration and flying precision demanded in close formation,” said flying display director Brian Lewis.

The varied line-up includes the world’s only flying V-bomber, the Avro Vulcan XH558, which this year is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Other firsts for the 14th Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival include the Aerostars, flying six aircraft in formation aerobatics, and the Russian-built Antonov AN-2 which is the largest single-engine biplane ever produced.

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain is being marked with four aircraft from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – the Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota.

Visitors will also see another famous aircraft which flew over the beaches on D-Day, the solo Grace Spitfire, flown by the world’s only female Spitfire pilot.

Other aircraft on the packed programme include the world’s only formation wing-walking display team, the four-aircraft Blades aerobatic team, a Hawker Hunter jet, an Alpha Jet from the French Air Force, a Sikorsky Pave Hawk helicopter from the United States Air Force and the world renowned Red Arrows.

The flying programme starts at 12.10pm on Thursday and 12.30pm on Friday.

But it’s not all about eyes on the sky, with plenty other things to do throughout both days from 10am.

The Royal Green will host a number of attractions including a range of displays by the Royal Air Force and there will be a Meet The Pilots marquee.

As well as a funfair and giant inflatables, it will boast a new feature this year – a giant LED screen which will show live pictures of some of the flying displays, information, interviews and a chance for visitors to get interactive with text messaging. It is also hoped to show live pictures taken from the air on it while displays are taking place.

More military displays featuring the Army and Royal Navy will be situated further along the seafront on the Claremont Pier car park.

Other attractions include a Walking on Water feature with giant inflatable balls and there’ll also be a speed kicking challenge by Norwich City FC’s Football in the Community scheme.

Live music, refreshments, market and charity stalls will line the promenade while various exhibitions will add to the enjoyment of the family day out.

Train services between Ipswich and Lowestoft will run as per the scheduled timetable with supplementary bus services operating too.

With all main seafront car parks closed, nearby roads coned off and police operating a strict tow-away system for any vehicles parked in restricted areas, visitors coming by road are advised to use the park and ride scheme.

Costing �10 per car, the sites are just off the A12 to the north and south of Lowestoft at Dip Farm, Corton, and at Africa Alive! at Kessingland.

Both sites will be open from 8am each day with the first buses leaving at 8.30am. The last return buses will be at 7.30pm. They will run at ten to 30-minute intervals.

Limited parking and walk sites are available at Pakefield Cliffs car park, a short distance from South Beach costing �7 a car and at Asda’s car park on Horn Hill for �10 a car, which includes a donation to the festival.

Disabled car parking is available at Belvedere Road car park where coaches may also park. There is no parking for disabled cars on the seafront but there will be a limited wheelchair minibus service from both park and ride sites.

All through traffic is being encouraged to use an alternative route via Oulton Broad.

People intending to arrive early and settle on the beach for the day should note high water times are 11.31am on the Thursday and 12.16pm the Friday.

The RSPCA recommend you don’t bring your dogs because of the crowds, noise, safety fears and hygiene. Park and ride service organisers will not allow dogs on.

Parents who would like their children to have wristbands in case they become separated can obtain them free from stewards. You can write a mobile number on them so they can quickly be reunited with any lost children and a lost children station will be located at the Claremont car park near the Claremont Pier.

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