HUNDREDS of thousands of sun-drenched spectators were left awe-struck at those magnificent men, and women, in their flying machines at the weekend.
Crowd estimates for the 26th annual Sunderland International Airshow varied, but some said it may have nudged the one million-mark over the three-days of the free flying festival.
It was thought that almost half a million people attended the event on Saturday, enjoying the aerial spectacle under the hottest skies of the weekend.
But almost as many lined the sea front at Roker and Seaburn today (Sunday July 27) as the flying programme concluded with an ear-shattering display by the RAF’s ‘top gun’ Typhoon, before the mass departure to the buses, Metro stations and park and ride sites.
It followed a “revised” start to the weekend, when, bizarrely, given the sun-soaked conditions inland, low cloud on the sea front forced the cancellation of the opening evening launch party flying programme, set to feature the world-renowned Red Arrows, in their 50th flying year.
As the skies cleared the nine-man daredevil RAF aerobatics display team, fresh from their Commonwealth Games opening ceremony appearance, were cleared to take to the air to end the Saturday programme and start Sunday’s flying schedule.
Airshow director Sue Stanhope said the decision to cancel the Friday evening flying programme was based on good meteorological advice, despite a brief sunny spell at about the time events were due to get underway.
“I know the sun came out and there were blue skies when people were arriving, but we knew the clouds were drawing in again, which they did, so it was sound advice.”
She said the weekend went otherwise to plan, given the favourable climatic conditions.
“It’s been great to see so many people enjoying this fabulous free event.
“We’re estimating that through Saturday alone close to half-a-million visitors attended the airshow.”
She thanked the huge team behind the delivery of, “this first class event”.
Attractions were “stretched” along the sea front from Roker to Seaburn to ensure the huge numbers attending were not compressed into a small area on the sea front.
A popular feature this year was the BBC’s World War at Home event, on the Seaburn Showfield, hosted by actor Larry Lamb, of EastEnders and One Show fame, on Saturday, and Sunderland’s veteran front-line war correspondent, on Sunday.
The satisfied event organiser director made no pledges as to additions to next year’s programme, but added that all she could promise was that there would be a 27th airshow, with hopefully a repeat of the 2014 weather.