Bournemouth Air Festival 2022

Bournemouth Air Festival 2022

Bournemouth Air Festival brought the summer holidays to a close with a four-day extravaganza of aerial and ground entertainment. This year, the show featured some welcome international military participation and some trademark mixed formations flying along the Dorset coastline.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

Bournemouth is one of the UK’s most important and innovative airshows. It draws massive audiences each year that often approach 1 million spectators over four days. That makes it very important to the UK military and aerospace industry in their public relations campaigns as demonstrated by the huge military villages the festival hosts and the immediate success of the STEM Exhibition introduced in 2021. It is also well loved by display crews who enjoy the stunning display area flanked by the Isle of Wight and the Purbeck Hills and the exceptionally warm welcome from the BCP Council team that stages the festival.

Bournemouth, along with the Sanicole Airshow in Belgium, has also pioneered the twilight pyrotechnic spectaculars that now are a well-loved feature of many other airshows across Europe. In 2021, despite a late go-ahead decision, BCP Council managed to organise the only major seaside airshow that year during the tail-end of the coronavirus pandemic with its staff going above and beyond the make the event happen.


Many may have thought 2022 would be an easier year for the festival with coronavirus restrictions gone, but the energy and cost of living crisis have become major headwinds for the entire events industry. While the scale of the 2022 Bournemouth Air Festival was still vast, it is still wasn’t back to its peak of four or five years ago. The rising costs were also reflected in the flying with little in the way of classic jets which have been such a feature of previous editions of the Air Festival. However, Bournemouth still boasted a very entertaining line-up with superb contributions from both military and civilian performers.

Centre to Bournemouth’s flying displays are contributions from the UK military. The Royal Air Force headlined the show sending the RAF Red Arrows, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Chinook Display Team and RAF Typhoon Display Team for all four days of the event. The late summer has been a tough time for the Red Arrows, particular for the hard-working engineering team who have been faced with multiple unserviceable aircraft at major events. They were again called on to work their magic following the Reds’ opening display of the festival when Red 6 reported engine issues halfway through the display and made a rapid return to Bournemouth Airport escorted by Red 7. Happily, Friday and Saturday’s displays went much more smoothly with even the weather on side for two full displays for the huge audience filling the beaches and cliff top between Boscombe and Bournemouth Pier. Sunday however saw the gremlins return at the last minute forcing the team to close their Air Festival with a six-ship routine.


The other three RAF teams were all involved in special formations, something that has been a trademark of the Bournemouth Air Festival since its inception in 2008. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight returned with their standard three-ship display of Avro Lancaster B1, Supermarine Spitfire IIa and Hawker Hurricane IIc. At the end of their displays on Friday and Saturday they linked up with Flt Lt Adam O’Hare in the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 to present a formation of Spitfire and Typhoon during the displays on Friday and Saturday.

Finally, the Chinook Display Team reprised their formation with the Blades Aerobatic Team on all four days of the Air Festival. They have previously presented the formation at the English Riviera and the Eastbourne International Airshows to highlight both team’s charity partner, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.


The Royal Navy were represented in the air at this year’s festival with the Black Cats Helicopter Display Team presenting a solo Leonardo Wildcat HMA2 flown by Lt Jim Carver. The Wildcat flew all four days demonstrating the agility of the Navy’s newest maritime attack helicopter. On Friday, the Wildcat was joined by one of its forebears, the Westland Wasp HAS1 from the NavyWings Heritage Flight for a joint flypast ahead of their own solo displays.

Completing the UK military displays were the Tigers Army Parachute Display Team. The Tigers have supported every Air Festival since it began jumping into the difficult landing area on the beach under the cliffs. This year they also took a full part in the Night Air Displays jumping out of the inky black skies with lights and pyrotechnics which was a spectacular finale to the first three days flying.


International military participation returned to Bournemouth Air Festival for the first time since the US Navy visited in 2019. This time it was the turn of the United States Air Force with a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress from the 23rd Bomb Squadron which is part of the 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The unit is currently part of the regular Bomber Task Force deployment to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and is currently undertaking exercises across Europe with NATO allies. The aircraft performed a single flypast along the seafront as part of day long sortie which also took in a flypast at the Airpower Airshow in Austria.

Alongside the current military aircraft were a good selection of warbirds. The Rolls Royce Heritage Flight returned to Bournemouth with both its North American P-51D Mustang ‘Warhorse’ and Supermarine Spitfire PRXIX. Both aircraft performed solo displays over the four days in the hands of Alistair Williams, Graham Pemberton and Chris Hadlow with the Mustang in the main display and the Spitfire opening the Night Air Displays. Joining the Rolls Royce pair were the Hawker Fury ISS and Republic P-47D Thunderbolt from Air Leasing. Flown by Andy Durston and Mark Levy, the pair of late war fighters had a great presence in the sky with their throaty engine notes and immense power of their big radial engines.


Bournemouth was a special display for the Aerosuperbatic Wingwalkers. In 2021, their displays at Bournemouth came to a dramatic conclusion when the lead aircraft with Dave Barrell and Kirsten Pobjoy onboard was forced to ditch in Poole Harbour following an engine failure. Both Dave and Kirsten were back for 2022 performing their crowd pleasing alongside Brian Cornes and Emma Broadbent. In an interview with the BBC Kirsten said, “I was never going to let that stop me. You fall in love with something and you have to accept it for what it is. You take every show as it comes. I’m so excited to be back here at Bournemouth because this has always been one of my favourite shows.” She added: “I always have my trust in Dave, he’s been my pilot for years and we do have a very special relationship… he is my hero.”

One of the big set-pieces over the weekend displays was the Sky Sprint Challenge which pitted Rich Goodwin in his SABIO sponsored Pitts S-2S Special G-JPIT again a Sunseeker Hawk 28 speedboat in a closed course in the display area. While perhaps not the best of photographic opportunities it was great to see something very different as part of the flying programme that added a different style of dynamic entertainment as well as supporting local businesses.

Further solo aerobatics came from Rod Dean with his smooth flowing routine in the Slingsby T-67M Firefly over all four days of the festival. As well as the solo displays there were thrilling formation displays from The Blades and the Firebirds Aerobatic Teams. Thursday’s audience also saw the Yakovlevs take part in the flying with a stunning fourship routine.


After a slightly cut down Night Air experience in 2021, it was pleasing to see the twilight displays back up to full strength for 2022. As well as the previously mentioned Tigers Army Parachute Display Team and Rolls Royce Spitfire, Fridya and Saturday’s Night Air also once again included an encore display from Flt Lt Adam O’Hare in the Typhoon FGR4. It is however the pyrotechnic displays which are the central highlight to Night Air. The Firebirds team of Nigel Reid and John Dodd have taken up the mantle of the former Fireflies team and added their own tweeks to their beautiful twilight show. At Bournemouth they unveiled some brand-new animated LED lighting for their Vans RV4s which continuous change colour and on Saturday flew a further special formation with the Rolls Royce Spitfire.


However, if ever there was a crowd favourite at Night Air, it is OTTO the Helicopter flown by Brendan O’Brien and Alex Garman. Nothing ever quite prepares you for the sheer wall of colour and noise that erupt from the little Schweizer 300C helicopter as it gently dances around in the twilight. After missing out in 2021, in was great to see OTTO back and also to see Alex, who has long supported Brendan’s flying display activities, complete his first Bournemouth display.


2022 saw the Air Festival back to full strength following a slightly lower key event in 2021. From the flying displays perspective, it was incredible to see just so many different special formations across all four days performed by the participants and the very special visit by the USAF B-52H during Saturday’s programme. Allied to the superb aerial action were the excellent STEM Exhibition, the various military exhibitions and an eclectic mix of supporting entertainment over the weekend. Jon Weaver, Air Festival Director, commented, “Once again, we’ve had a fantastic four days of fun and I’m incredibly proud of my team who have worked tirelessly both leading up to and over the last few weeks to ensure the success of this year’s festival. I am also very grateful to colleagues across the Council who have stepped up before and during the festival to ensure its smooth running. Putting together a festival of this magnitude also requires a huge amount of partnership working and my immense thanks go to everyone who been involved in this year’s festival. From the emergency services to the armed forces and RNLI, as well as hospitality partners and traders who all have given 100% to make sure we had a successful festival over the last few days.” The Bournemouth Air Festival will return in 2023 over 31st August – 3rd September.