Monday, September 18, 2017

Southport Air Show 2017

This weekend marked the annual Southport Air Show - a staple in the calendar for many people, Mike has been trying to get me to the show for years.. 2017 was his year to succeed.
 
We set off at 6am, and made our way to Southport. We arrived at just after 7, and had to queue to get into the 'advanced car parking' section - we did want to be on the beach, but a steward directed us to a field instead. It was a little disappointing as when we did make our way onto the beach later, another entrance was available for those who wanted beach parking - but the attendants gave us no idea despite us asking.
 

The show opened at 9am, so we had some time on our hands - we ended up venturing into Southport itself in search of breakfast.

When we did get ourselves ready to get onto the beach, it was obvious the 'prime' spots were heavily in contention. A newbie to the event, I watched as Mike and his father set up an area using wind breaks to 'claim' a spot at the front - perfect for me as we could huddle up and hide against the cold wind with foldable chairs. They assured me as the day went on, people would pack the beaches and the area would prove a Godsend - especially as we had Tobie (my inlaws dog) with us!


The show opened at 1pm with The Tigers Free Fall Team parachuting in, showing us various formations with the parachutes - all commentated by another member of their regiment which gave us a great insight into the training that these soldiers have to undergo. This was followed by a flight from the P-51 Mustang.


Mike and his father knew the planes, and could tell me more specifics about each one - admittedly this was a little lost on me, but I simply enjoyed seeing these relics up in the air and being adored by a beach absolutely full to the rafters of people.


The Breitling Wingwalker absolutely astounded the crowds - not just the beautiful plane itself with its jaunty colour scheme, but the grace and poise of the woman strapped to the top of the wing performing gymnastics. Strapped. To. The. WING. The plane performed the usual barrel rolls and loop-the-loops, all with this young woman contorting herself in various ways - I think my mouth spent most of this hung open.

She has more guts than me!


OTTO The Helicopter was next up, performing some fun stunts showcasing what the helicopter could do. This included flying sideways and spinning seemingly out of control - usually, OTTO does have a little face but he didn't seem to be showing it when Mike managed to capture this photograph.


The beach then came under attack - the MiG-15 swooping in and pyrotechnics exploding on the beach giving the impression it was heavily under fire from a machine gun. The huge explosions rocked the beach (and crowd - my poor mother in law left her seat more than once) but thankfully, the terror was short lived. The De Havilland Vampire Pair swooped in and began a simulated dog fight, eventually scaring the MiG-15 off. Victory!


Next up to wow the crowds, was The Turb Team.

A trio of planes performed some low flying stunts that made out toes curl - sometimes, flying within three feet of the ground. This style of flying is taken from the old days of 'barn storming', when planes would fly through the front doors and exit via the back doors of barns to show off their prowess. These guys even caused some more explosions too, rocking the beach with flour bombs - thrown from the windows of the planes by the pilots.

From here, the timetable got a little jumbled with some acts not following the list, and some popping up a little sooner - so I apologise if I make a mistake listing these.


The Blades featured next, formation flying and performing some wonderful manoeuvres over the beach. This included wonderful smoke trails in the sky, such as the Champagne Fountain and a lovely little heart too.


It wasn't long before the distinctive chug of blades filled the air - the Huey coming into sight. The history behind this helicopter was explained via loud speaker, giving us an insight into how blessed we were to see this monster in flight.


When the Huey departed, the skies were filled with the drone of two planes - one at least, I knew.

The Spitfire and the Buchon gave us another little show - explosions along the beach thundered once more. The mock dogfight was a little tame, although the announcer did explain that the pilot couldn't really show the true capabilities of the Spitfire as she was just a museum piece. Still, it was wonderful to see a piece of British history in the skies above Southport!


The next to last plane to grace us with her presence was one that the enthusiasts along the beach had been looking forward to. The stunning 'Sally B' is the last remaining B-17 'flying fortress' in Europe that can fly and she was truly something to behold. Kept in the air by donations, I urge you to visit the website and pledge even just a small amount to keep this piece of history in the air.

Lastly, oh lastly. The calm beaches of Southport were woken up by a noise I can't even describe!


King of the skies, The Typhoon rocketed past the beach and performed a huge array of (loud) manoeuvres - did I mention this thing was loud?

I have fond memories as a child of being in Northumberland with family, and similar jets to this (I think they were called Tornados) filling the sky above us and scaring the ever-living daylights out of me, so the sounds were somewhat nostalgic for me.

All in all, we had a fantastic day - we paid £40 for a family ticket which included the advanced parking. The whole day was filled with something, and as we brought our own dinner we didn't have to spend on the food provided there - so we really did have an amazing day out for only the basic costs!
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