Safety first as airshow promises aerial magic

The Red Arrows performing an aerial display at last year's Air Waves airshow at Portrush
The Red Arrows performing an aerial display at last year's Air Waves airshow at Portrush

Restrictions placed on some aerial acrobatics following the Shoreham disaster will have no impact on this weekend’s Air Waves event in Portrush, organisers said.

Airshow director Paul Sall said the seaside location of the display made the event as safe as possible.

Paul Sall, director of 'Air Waves Portrush'

Paul Sall, director of 'Air Waves Portrush'

In the aftermath of the tragedy in West Sussex on August 22 – when 11 people died after a jet taking part in a local airshow crashed onto the A27 – the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued new guidelines.

Mr Sall said: “The CAA, following the tragic incidents over the last ten days or so, have issued a direction that certain types of aircraft are not allowed to conduct any high-energy manoeuvres over the land.

“Whilst we already comply with all those rules and regulations, the event we’ve got here at Portrush is subtly different to most other UK events in that it is over the sea.”

Mr Sall revealed that Air Waves organisers had “subtly changed the display lines so that all of our aircraft now, even those that were going to do some very low-energy manoeuvres over the land – everything will now be over the sea”.

There is as much going on on the ground as there is in the air

Paul Sall - Air Waves airshow director

He added: “That’s not to say that in the previous instance it was unsafe, it’s just that the new mandate by the CAA recommends that we do that.”

More than 100,000 people are expected at the show over two days of aerial displays and land-based attractions – including a play zone, motor village, vintage aircraft display, six helicopters on static display and Star Wars characters.

Mr Sall said the recent disaster had not impacted on the impressive line-up of displays this weekend.

“People can come here and expect to see the Vulcan on the Saturday along with the B-17 [Flying Fortress] – two wonderfully iconic aircraft - and on the Sunday you will see a Saab Viggen, which I don’t think has ever been seen in Northern Ireland.

“We also got the Red Arrows, the Typhoon, the Hawker Role Demo and a whole host of other aircraft, so the programme is packed.

“It’s important to remember that there is as much going on on the ground as there is in the air and we’ve got the Ulster Aviation Society putting on a fantastic ground display of restored older aircraft.”

The Vulcan XH558 is the only flying example left in the world and its appearance at Portrush will be its last on the island of Ireland before being permanently grounded in September.

Translink is providing additional capacity on trains and buses and encouraging as many visitors as possible to use these services.

Impressive line-up of historic aircraft

Europe’s only airworthy B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sally B’ is one of the highlights in the air over Portrush on Saturday as it makes a welcome return following a two-year absence.

The iconic aircraft was used by movie-makers for the 1989 Hollywood blockbuster Memphis Belle.

Another greatly anticipated attraction is The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which operates from RAF Coningsby.

The flight traditionally includes a formation of Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane – but is subject to Public Display Authority clearance for each of the aircraft.

Ground attractions are open to the public from 11am to 6pm and the air displays will take place from 12.30pm to 6pm both today and tomorrow.

Weather permitting, the Red Arrows are scheduled to perform their routine at 12.30pm on each of the two days.