Red Arrows to appear at Portsmouth’s first air festival

DISPLAY The Red Arrows roar over Old Portsmouth in 2009.  Picture:  Jim Sadler
DISPLAY The Red Arrows roar over Old Portsmouth in 2009. Picture: Jim Sadler
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THE world-famous RAF Red Arrows will soar over Southsea Common this summer.

The iconic jets will be the stars of the show at the first-ever Portsmouth Air Festival on Saturday, August 18.

The free event is set to attract 50,000 people to the seafront in a bid to raise £250,000 for charities including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity.

The return of the Red Arrows follows the deaths of two of the team’s pilots in separate accidents last year, which saw the aircraft temporarily grounded.

Chief executive of Portsmouth Air Festival Steve Lawrence said: ‘We’ve had confirmation that the Red Arrows are coming.

‘We are absolutely over the moon.

‘They’re going to be the pinnacle of the display. It was important for us to get the Red Arrows because they are such a big attraction.

‘We’re thrilled they are going to be in Portsmouth, especially after the issues they faced last year.

‘Obviously, it’s been tough for them so we hope even more people will come out and show their support.’

It will be the first time the Red Arrows have come to Portsmouth since they wowed the crowds for a homecoming of HMS Ark Royal in September 2009.

Mr Lawrence said: ‘We’re still in discussions with the team about timings, but the plan is for them to close the air show at 4.30pm.

‘It will be a great spectacle to end seven hours of flying.’

The festival will see the Breitling Wingwalkers, Second World War Spitfire planes and an old Royal Navy Sea Vixen fighter take to the skies during an all-day show, followed by a pop concert and closed with a fireworks display at 11pm.

The Red Arrows, which are set to star at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and a number of other air shows this summer, are busy training in Cyprus.

It comes after Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, died when his Hawk aircraft crashed following a Red Arrows performance at Bournemouth Air Show last August.

And in November, Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, 35, died when he was ejected from his plane due to a mechanical fault while it was on the runway at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

Squadron Leader Jim Turner said: ‘The last few months have been the hardest that the team have endured for a long time.

‘However, in true RAF spirit and ethos we are determined to put the recent tragedies behind us and move forward to promote our reputation as one of the finest, most professional and safest military display teams in the world.’