Each year the town of Folkestone hosts a small, but very popular annual flying display. As in 2022, Folkestone shared the Eastbourne weekend bringing in participation from the Royal Air Force and a couple of civilian acts to entertain the crowds on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
Recently, Folkestone Air Display has slowly started to grow back into a more significant event. Formally, the town hosted the superb Shepway Airshow which is an annual one-day event that drew huge crowds to the south-east corner of Kent showcasing a host of RAF and warbird displays. Since that disappeared from the calendar following the 2003 event, Folkestone has on occasion held small flying displays usually based around a Red Arrows display and organised by Folkestone & Hythe District Council. There was a major display organised by a private company in 2014 but that ran into huge financial issues and never returned. Further to that, Folkestone Town Council has often added some flying displays to its annual Armed Forces Day celebrations in June. Clearly, within the town there is decent support for flying displays.
The 2023 Folkestone Air Display was the biggest since 2014 with five different display items. They were however spread over a whole afternoon with long gaps in between. However, the very large crowd that gathered on a very warm sunny did not seem to mind staying the whole day to enjoy the seafront festival, live music and attractions laid on by the council on top of the flying. The principal car park at Radnor Park was full well before the flying got away and the entire Leas promenade was filled with spectators.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight opened the show with the Avro Lancaster B1 PA474, Supermarine Spitfire Vb AB901 and Hawker Hurricane IIc PZ865. With France and the channel shipping clearly visible in the background there can be few more emotive venues to watch these warbirds wheel around the skies.
Following the BBMF were the Red Arrows. Folkestone is one of the few display venues in the South East not affected by airspace restrictions for Gatwick and Heathrow airports so the team were able to fly a full routine in the blue skies. The elevated view from the Leas offers a very special vantage point to watch a Red Arrows display with many of the synchro passes at eye-level!
The flying displays then switched to two displays from civilian acts. The Stampe Formation Team are relative locals to Folkestone with their aircraft based at Redhill and Headcorn. The latter aerodrome is where the team often practice their routine. Their colourful Stampe SV4s looked superb against the deep blue skies and they did an admirable job to display to the very long crowd-line.
A very different style of biplane display followed with Rich Goodwin displaying Pitts S-2S Special G-JPIT. Equipped with two Lynx jet turbines, this aircraft has amazing performance with Rich able to power vertically into the heavens and even hover for quite long periods. Rich’s display is one that always gathers more and more interest as it progresses with the unique sound of piston engine and the jets grabbing the crowd’s attention and gaining a well-deserved round of applause at its end.
Closing the show in the early evening sunshine was Flt Lt Matt Brighty flying the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. Matt’s punchy display in the ‘Blackjack’ schemed jet was the perfect finale to what was a very pleasant afternoon on the Kent coast. The popularity of the event was impressive and hopefully provided a welcome boost to some of the hospitality businesses around the show site. We sincerely hope the event remains on the display calendar for many years to come.