FROM early morning, there were fears it was to be more 'Flight Quest' than FlightFest as trees blew anti-clockwise amid strong blustering winds.
Empty crisp packets swirled and swooped along the streets of Dublin and conditions hardly seemed appropriate for the biggest fly-past in the history of Irish aviation, with 35 various aircraft coming in low over the River Liffey.
The almost ludicrously dramatic sight of a dive-bombing umbrella sleeve plummeting to the ground on Excise Walk seemed to settle it.
"Cancelled, it's sure to be cancelled," gloomy would-be onlookers agreed with one another as they took position along the riverbank just in case, raingear billowing out like miniature hot air balloons.
But organisers stood firm. They had been promised an iron-clad forecast from the Irish Aviation Authority that there was to be "one more shower" before the scheduled start of 2pm and that the skies would then miraculously clear. Sure enough, they were right – though it was still windy enough to give some spectators food for thought as they wondered whether that shuddering Air Corps helicopter was actually in the process of being seized by the wind or merely conducting a special trick for the watching crowds.
Organisers had hoped 100,000 would come out to watch this historic event put together as a sort of end-of-summer spectacle for The Gathering initiative – but it was more successful than they could have hoped for, with at least 130,000 turning out to gaze sky-ward.
"Thank God for the rain," said one garda along the south quays, where the crowds had swelled to a degree that was just about manageable.
On the ground, most people seemed to converge at the Customs House and at the approach to the Samuel Beckett Bridge, which had been closed off for the event, although almost any corner of the city made a nice backdrop for the unusual sight of the world's largest super jet curling low – or a rare World War II B17 bomber with simulated smoke billowing from its engines.
And though coming in much lower than the norm at 800 feet, it seemed a little disappointing that they were not somehow closer – until you remembered those all important safety concerns.
There were oohs and aahs from the crowd at the sight of the Sally B Flying Fortress, sweeping majestically in from the bay. The World War II American bomber was one of the five B 17s used in the film 'Memphis Belle'. The final piece de resistance in the spectacular line-up was the world's largest Super jumbo jet, the British Airways A380, normally used for long-haul flights, which arrived from Heathrow for a momentary appearance.
Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisin Quinn said the spectacular would be remembered for many years.