It’s lift-off for city’s first air festival

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A FREE air festival which organisers say will rival the best aviation shows in the world is being planned to take place in Portsmouth next summer.

The world’s only aerobatic wingwalking team, the Breitling Wingwalkers, Second World War Spitfire planes and an old Royal Navy Sea Vixen fighter jet are just some of the star attractions being lined up for a seven-hour extravaganza of soaring displays over Southsea Common on Saturday, August 18, 2012.

Organisers of the first-ever Portsmouth Air Festival have pledged the event will be free to the public and expect more than 50,000 people to attend.

The festival will be funded by sponsorship deals and it is hoped it can raise more than £250,000 for charitable causes including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

The festival’s chief executive, Chichester-based businessman Steve Lawrence, told The News: ‘This will be one of the biggest things to happen in Portsmouth for quite some time.

‘The whole idea behind the air festival is to do something for Portsmouth. The company is not-for-profit – all the money we make will be put back in the business for the next year’s show and we want to make a lot of money for charity. It’s commercially driven. We’ve not asked the council for any money because we aim to cover our own costs.

‘We decided as an event it should be free and of benefit to the community. It’s about putting Portsmouth on the map.’

The full programme is being drawn up in the coming months and the organisers are meeting officials from the Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday to confirm air space clearance on the day.

Organisers say the festival will also see Southsea Common packed with things for people to do while the aircraft zoom overhead.

There will be static aircraft displays, craft activity tents, and a festival village with food and bars. It will all end with fireworks at 11pm.

Businesses have already begun pledging financial support for the festival, including the global aircraft giant Vector Aerospace which has its UK base in Gosport.

Ken Doig, business development manager for Vector, said: ‘This will be a fantastic event for Portsmouth.

‘As a company we work with the military on a daily basis so we are always looking at ways of supporting military charities. It will also raise awareness of the aerospace industry in Portsmouth.’

Portsmouth City Council is expected to give approval soon for the common to be used. The Lord Mayor, Cllr Cheryl Buggy, said: ‘I was very pleased to learn of the plans for the air festival for August 2012 and I am pleased to add my support to those plans.’