Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bournemouth Air Festival 2008

Managed to scrounge some money and yesterday had a day out, setting off from New Milton Station (map) on the 11.45 Weymouth train for the Bournemouth Air Festival.

My conscience won't allow me to not mention my inner conflict about attending such an event, in the first place, however.

Here in "Austerity Britain", we're having the avoidance of waste rammed down our throats, we're being urged to recycle every last thing, told to turn down our thermostats to save a negligible amount of fuel (for maximum discomfort) and, we're supposed to feel guilty about taking the odd holiday flight, like there's a bloody war on and then we have displays involving a £68.9 million aircraft, carrying 5 tons of aviation fuel, flitting about over a seaside resort "just for fun."

Well, just as a display of military might and as a recruitment and PR exercise, to encourage excitement and unquestioning support and volunteers (like there's a war on), more like.

Brits are the first to criticise military parades elsewhere (like Russia or China), yet turn out in droves too see air shows up and down this country. They don't see them as being one and the same thing, they don't see the total hypocrisy and, too many still buy the propaganda that we "need" these defences against some imagined enemy who might attack us.

What bothers me more is, even knowing all that, I still enjoyed the show and appreciated it on an aesthetic basis. It's a somewhat uncomfortable paradox that I can find no means to reconcile in my own mind.

It was also mighty busy, the train was packed with many standing and Bournemouth roads were one huge jam. So, once I got to Bournemouth it was quicker to walk the 1.2 miles from Bournemouth Station to the seafront. I paid my 50p toll (not bad value, considering the extortionate prices of most things in this country) and wandered down to the end of Bournemouth Pier for a good view. A good decision, because most of the planes "buzzed" the end of the pier, which got them close enough to my tiny "point and shoot" camera.

Talking to a couple of ladies while waiting for lunch to arrive, we heard a plane overhead, but because of the low cloud cover, could not see it. I figured that this would be the plane carrying the RAF Falcons and lo and behold, within seconds, the parachute display team had dropped through the cloud and were winding down in formation to land in the only spare space on the beach.

One actual purpose of going to the show was to try to get some photos of the The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (website) and, whilst I expected to see the typical flypast formation of Hawker Hurricane, Avro Lancaster and Supermarine Spitfire, an added bonus was the seeing the Spitfire doing acrobatics.

None are great, but I also got several shots and a very short video of the Red Arrows.

The Eurofighter Typhoon was going much too fast for me to catch, though I felt the rush of hot air as it buzzed past the pier end. That engineering is capable of producing it is awe inspiring. That we even think we need such a nasty beast is something I find utterly spine chilling and disconcerting.

Not that I can even fly a paper dart, but I reckon you could almost park one of these space rockets in the street though, they appear so manoeuvrable.

What also struck me was the relative slowness of the lumbering old Lancaster Bomber and realizing how long it must have taken them to get to their targets in WWII, thus how long the men who crewed them spent in the air, en route, being vulnerable. No wonder Flight Gear was predominantly brown!

Here's one shot of the Falcon 20, but I missed getting any of the Sea Vixen, though I saw it above the town as I was getting back to the station. Because the roads were so clogged up, I walked back too, but I really wish I hadn't. I had to stop half way because I'd become overheated and started having pains in my chest and, once I got home, I was exhausted from overexertion.

Just as I'd been leaving the pier, Team Guinot, the world’s only formation wingwalking team were performing. Wingwalking on a plane flying along straight is one thing, but these girls wingwalk on bi-planes doing acrobatics and, as you can see in the small video on this page, their "party piece" is to fly two planes, one inverted over the other so that the girls touch hands

Absolutely brilliantly executed, though I'd seriously question their sanity.

See more images from the Bournemouth Air Festival 2008 here ...

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