It is no secret that we love Bournemouth Air Festival which is a free annual event put on by the town for four days in the summer holidays. This year the event falls between 20th – 23rd August and we plan on heading down to enjoy the fun for all four days.
The event takes part on the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe Pier, although the busiest part of the beach is always closest to Bournemouth Pier. I recommend you avoid this area as it does snarl into a bottle neck at the busiest times and for the best vantage point we set up centrally between the two piers. For a good idea of where this is, look up on the cliff for a large orange marker.
Thursday is by far the quietest day, so is the perfect day for exploring all the exhibits that are set up along the beach. There are army vehicles to clamber aboard, climbing walls, guns to hold, the armed forces to chat to as well as local businesses selling their wears or just handing out freebies, flags and planes and most of it is free or just a small donation which goes towards their charity.
I would recommend buying a program that gives you all the flight times, as well as a special code to view the times online as they can be subject to change. There are announcers that give you times too and talk about the aircraft and the displays as they happen, but it can be difficult to hear if you are close to the shoreline or near a fairground ride.
We get down to the beach around 10.30am to get the best spot even though the action doesn’t start until around midday. With the best will in the world, the kids are not interested in all the aircraft so we pitch by the shoreline so we can keep an eye on them as they splash about in the waves or build sandcastles. Bournemouth Beach also has a kids safety zone programme and hand out free colour coded wristbands which you attach to the kids and write down your mobile number in case the kids so wander off. The colour tells the officials which part of the beach you are on and the mobile phone signal is better than ever this year.
You can arrange trips out to the Navy ships that are moored out in Bournemouth Bay and this year for the first time you could book online. You need to do this as soon as the tickets are released and they sold out very quickly.
One of our favourite parts of Bournemouth Airshow, other than the displays is the Beach Assault. The Royal Marine Commando’s put on a spectacular performance and this year was the best yet with four warships, a large amphibious command ship complete with helicopters, Royal Marines and landing craft, Royal Navy Black Cats helicopter display team and Commando helicopters. See the commando’s winch down into boats and tanks roll across the display arena. Be aware that there is gunfire and loud pyrotechnics so if you have young or sensitive children make sure you have some ear defenders at the ready.
Of course being an air festival means the sky is packed full of things to see. There are the more gentle air craft such as the Tutor and those daredevils that love nothing more than to leap out of planes. How they hit their target I will never know!
The helicopters always put on an incredible show and we love the sound made by the Chinook as it pulls some impressive manoeuvre that don’t seem possible in a helicopter and the kids love the man in the back with giant orange hands who waves to the crowd along the shoreline.
The Black Cats duo put on a spectacular aerial ballet that also delights the crowd.
Of course the kids favourites are always the crowd pleasers – The Red Arrows. Any playing stops and it is the obligatory sit on shoulders to watch as 9 aircraft zoom across the sky just 6ft apart.
The Saturday and Sunday of the air festival is always the busiest and the beaches get packed. There are lots of portaloo type toilets provided but be aware that there will be queues and toilet paper runs out fast so take your own.
Lots of people also means lots of food / drink rubbish and there are quite a few wasps that materialise so an insect repellant is important especially if you are allergic to the little blighters. We always take a picnic but there are plenty of food / drink stalls along the beach front, some even selling wine and beer.
The weekend also brings in the big guns – The Power Hour is my firm favourite with the likes of the Sea Vixen, Eurofighter Typhoon and for the final year in 2015, the Vulcan.
I recommend using ear defenders for these aircraft as the noise they produce is exciting for adults but scary for small children.
Britain being Britain the weather can be a bit up and down. Check the forecasts before you leave and take umbrella’s whatever the weather as they can double as sunshades. We use our Outwell Transporter that we had for Camp Bestival and take our Field Candy SunShade and tent as well as camping chairs to sit on, although a picnic blanket on the sand is just as good.
If you are not exhausted by a full day at the beach it is worth sticking around for night air as the aircraft displays contain pyrotechnics. There is also combat displays and live music both on the beach and in gardens. If you can make it to 10pm you are also treated to a firework display too.
My Top Tip – Relax, have fun and enjoy all there is to see!