Monday 18 December 2017

Thousands wing way to airborne spectacular

Fergal Gallagher

THE crowds go up, up and up. A record 80,000 people turned out to watch those magnificent men in their flying machines at the air show in Bray, Co Wicklow, yesterday.

That beats last year's attendance for the event by 20,000 spectators.

Spinning stunt planes, low-flying jets, helicopters and classic planes wowed the crowds, which stretched from the busy seafront all the way to the top of Bray Head.

Some even ventured out to sea on boats and yachts to catch an unobstructed view.

The sixth Bray Air Spectacular began with the Irish Air Corps 'Black Knights' parachuting on to the beach.

Aer Lingus marked its 75th anniversary with a flyby from the 'Iolar' biplane, a replica of the airplane that made the airline's maiden flight in 1936.

At one stage, an Air Corps helicopter, which swooped in low to winch a crew member from the beach, caused consternation among spectators as they ran from the sandstorm created by the powerful rotors.

Despite getting sand in their eyes, the crowds had few complaints with what was on offer.

Rowan McDonnell, from Blanchardstown, travelled to the show with wife Melanie, sons Ryan (7) and Josh (10 months), as well as father Gerry.

"It's our first time here and we're having a great time. The traffic was a bit hectic but the kids love the planes and it's a great family day out," he said.

Josh's favourite act was the 'flying cow' stunt plane flown by former RAF pilot Gerry Humphreys, which performed a stunning display of aerobatics, including tumbles and spectacular nose dives.

And many in the crowd came from much further afield. Trevor and Barbara Norman, originally from the UK, travelled from their home in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, to spend the weekend in a local hotel with their son.

"I heard about the show on the radio, and it's our wedding anniversary today so I thought we'd make a weekend of it," Trevor said.

Marianne Dunne from Bray was watching the show with a large group of extended family and was delighted with the event.

"It's great for the town to have all these people here, all the shops, pubs and hotels are doing really well," she said.

As well as the high-jinks, there was plenty of entertainment at ground level too.

There was a big queue at the Air Corps stand, where there was an opportunity to handle an array of weapons, from rifles to bazookas.

Families also enjoyed the amusement rides that occupy Bray beachfront for most of the summer.

The show climaxed with a display from the Blades, the UK's most extreme formation aerobatic team, and finished with parachutists making a precision landing in front of the bandstand on the seafront.

Irish Independent

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