Pilots thrill crowds with incredible stunts

The Blades show off their skills
The Blades show off their skills
Jerry Williams. 

Picture by Gareth Gatrell

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A WEEKEND of amazing aerial stunts left big crowds in Portsmouth awestruck.

The summer sun beat down as people packed out the Race Village and Southsea Common to watch the thrilling displays on Saturday and Sunday.

The action followed on from the opening show by the flying aces from the Red Arrows on Friday, whose stunning 30-minute show launched the America’s Cup World Series.

The Blades aerial display team kicked off the weekend’s action in impressive fashion on Saturday afternoon – moments before the first competitive races started.

The squad of four planes – flown by former RAF fast-jet fighter pilots – wowed the crowds with a 15-minute display of breathtaking stunts in the sky above Southsea’s coastline.

People gasped and cheered as the Blades soared over Southsea Castle, performing a series of 30 dangerous rolls, flips and breaks.

And the team even paid tribute to Sir Ben Ainslie’s newborn baby girl, Bellatrix, by performing a manoeuvre dedicated to her name.

Katherine Philips, 45, of Southsea, watched The Blades with her husband, Gareth, 46, and their little girl, Isabelle, nine.

She said: ‘We screamed when we watched some of the stunts. It was scary to watch, but we just couldn’t take our eyes off it.’

Isabelle added: ‘It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. I loved it.’

Dan Hatfield, of Chandlers Ford, sat on the grassy area beside the castle, alongside hundreds of other spectactors, to see the performance.

Accompanied by his children William, 12, Caitlin, 11, Ben, 10, and wife Liz, 46, he said: ‘We loved it. Some of the stunts and flips were incredible. It must have taken a lot of courage.

‘The pilots can’t have had much to eat this morning.’

Son Ben was thrilled with the display.

‘It was great, I loved it when they separated and two went up and two went to the side,’ he added.

Olivia Van Walleghem, 26, of London, was impressed by all the stunts.

She said: ‘It was breathtaking. It was exhilerating watching the planes dive and roll.

‘The moves that some of the pilots can do are incredible. I loved every minute of it.’

Retired Charles Sampson, 71, of Gosport, added: ‘It was an incredibly exciting show. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.’

Yesterday saw another thrilling show from the Red Bull Matadors Aerobatic Team.

Pilots Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones powered through the sky at high speed.

The pair of daredevils, who are both British Airways pilots, pulled off a series of stunning rolls and tricky manoeuvres.

Steve, a 747 pilot, tackled a stunning solo display over the Solent and Southsea Castle while thousands watched the action from below.

Father-of-three Paul followed moments later with his solo display before the duo reunited to finish off their 10-minute performance in style with a series of impressive sychronised stunts.

Terry Cork, 61, of Bedfordshire, said: ‘It was a brilliant display. It’s a shame there was low cloud as it would have been even more impressive with a blue sky as the backdrop.’

George Kvestoi travelled from Hungary to watch Sunday’s finale of the America’s Cup World Series.

He said: ‘This is my first time here. I have seen the America’s Cup in Venice and I’m really enjoying it here in Portsmouth.’

Talking about the airshow, he said: ‘It was brilliant.’

Patrick Timpson, 13, of Havant, was watching the display with his mum Julie, 50, and aunt Sarah, 43.

He said: ‘I’ve been sailing since I was five and it’s amazing that we have an event this massive in Portsmouth.

‘Ben Ainslie is my hero and I can’t wait to cheer him on.

‘It’s just been an amazing atmosphere.’

It wasn’t just in the air that people could experience the thrills of flying – virtual reality simulators gave visitors the chance to sit in the cockpit of a stunt plane.

Alex Tomlins, 13, of Weybridge, Surrey, went on the ride with his friend Josh Williamson, 12.

He said: ‘It really feels like you’re there flying through the sky. I was turning my head to the side expecting to feel some G-force.

‘It was really good fun.’