Sunshine and aerial acrobatics: Sunderland International Airshow

Seaburn and Roker sea fronts played host this weekend to the 25th Sunderland International Airshow.  For the last 4 years, it is an event that Jim & I have always planned to attend, but the date always clashed with our travels.  We finally made it this year, and we could not have picked a better day for it.

Being Airshow virgins, we arrived expecting the show to start at 10am.  We knew that the Red Arrows would be kicking off the show and we wanted to arrive in good time to see them.  When we arrived, we found out that no flying would begin until 1pm.  Whoops.  We were lucky that we did arrive early, as it was an absolutely glorious day and the sea fronts were soon choked with tens of thousand of people settling in to watch the show.

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The Red Arrows are world famous for their displays, and their patriotic red, white and blue smoke.  I was looking forward to them, but I was worried that they would be overhyped.  Thankfully, I my worries were totally unfounded.  They did some truly breathtaking flying, making me wince as they fearlessly hurtled towards each other at hundreds of miles per hour.  The Red Arrows are crowd pleasers and their reputation as such is well deserved.  It was an awesome opening to the show.

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After that the flying displays were pretty much continuous for the rest of the afternoon.  We were treated to back flipping helicopters and complicated acrobatic manoueveres so one minute the planes looked as if they were dancing, and the next as if they were tumbling out of the sky.

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One of the highlights of the day were the World War Two aircraft.  This started with a Battle of Britain memorial flight with a Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane.  The Lancaster is apparently one of only two which are still fit to fly, so it was a real privilege being able to witness this.  Towards the end of the day there was also a simulated dog fight between German, British and US planes.  The Battle of Britain was not fought in Northern skies, however it was very easy to forget about the modern crowd and picture being a young woman in 1940 watching these fights to the death take place in the skies above my home.

The day was rounded off by a Typhoon Eurofighter, which according to Jim is one of the best fighter planes currently in existence.  It was phenomenally quick and the roar of the engines sounded like the sky being torn apart.

Not only was this my first visit to the Sunderland Air Show, it was also my first visit to Seaburn.  Seaburn is a typical British Victorian seaside resort town, which feels a little run down and neglected.  It is full of fish and chip shops, games arcades and greasy spoons.  However, with the sun shining over the calm North Sea and a wide expanse of clean sand, Seaburn is definitely worth a visit.  It is currently undergoing a major regeneration and with easy access from across the Newcastle and Sunderland, I expect this to be a place to watch out for in the future.

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Essential Information

The Airshow comes to Sunderland every year in the last weekend of July.  It is free to visit, but you will have to pay for parking.  It was £10 to park a car at the event, or £5 with free bus travel to park at one of the designated car parks.  Jim & I opted for the park and ride, which was very efficient.  The staff at the event were very helpful, and we British love a good queue, so the line back to the bus at the end was well managed and very civilised.  Alternatively, you can take a metro to Seaburn and walk about 15 minutes to the sea front.

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