Airshow pilots gear up for flying weekend visit to Portrush

Former professional rugby player Gerald Williams will be bringing his self-built RV8 plane to Portrush
Former professional rugby player Gerald Williams will be bringing his self-built RV8 plane to Portrush

One of the marvellous men in their flying machines at this weekend’s Portrush airshow will be a former professional rugby player who has played on the world stage.

Ahead of Air Waves Portrush – which promises to attract over 200,000 visitors – the News Letter spoke to two of the pilots who will be producing breath-taking displays of aerobatics.

Al Coutts (front) will  be piloting his iconic Pitts Special biplane at Portrush

Al Coutts (front) will be piloting his iconic Pitts Special biplane at Portrush

Gerald Williams, from the Raven display team said he was looking forward to piloting his self-built RV8 aircraft as part of a six strong team making their Portrush debut.

Mr Williams, 48, is a former professional rugby union and league player in his native Wales, New Zealand and South Africa, who he represented at the 1995 World Cup.

“I’m not an airforce or professional pilot like some of the other boys in the team,” he said. “I was interested in joining the airforce as a kid but rugby seemed to take over.”

Of the weekend show he said: “Unfortunately we’ll not get to enjoy Portrush. We’ll be taking off from Prestwick, flying to Portrush, doing the display, then coming back without landing on both days.

The Red Arrows will be the star attraction for many at Air Waves Portrush

The Red Arrows will be the star attraction for many at Air Waves Portrush

“We’re doing a show in Ayr as well on Saturday and Sunday so logistically it isn’t possible to land.”

Al Coutts, the lead pilot for the two-man Wildcat display team, said: “This is our second time in Portrush – we displayed both days last year.

“It’s a lovely place to display with very clear lines for the team to operate to.”

Both the Scottish pilots in the Wildcat team’s biplanes are ex-RAF and have been flying for over 30 years.

Asked if they had a favourite manoeuvre Mr Coutts said: “We love the last manoeuvre, our smoking heart – our signature.”

The stellar line-up of world-class aerobatics at Portrush will also include the world-famous RAF Red Arrows, a Typhoon jet and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Spitfire.

Saturday evening will see a firework display and live music in neighbouring Portstewart.

Portrush Airshow will run from 1pm to 5.45pm on Saturday with the Red Arrows display scheduled for 5.25pm.

On Sunday, proceedings get under way at 12.15pm and the show continues until 4.45pm.

The Red Arrows display will take place at approximately 1pm.

The best area to view the airshow is the East Strand and while parking is free in the town for the event those attending are encouraged to avail of park and ride facilities.

Exhibition space is divided between two areas – Lansdowne Green and East Strand car park.