SUNDERLAND International Airshow continued to fly high and live up to expectation over the weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors once again flocked to the Seaburn sea front and neighbouring Roker ‘Riviera’ for the three-day annual aerial showpiece spectacle.

Western Europe’s largest and widely considered best free airshow did not fail to deliver, despite some brief wet weather on the final afternoon, which led to the flying schedule being brought forward almost an hour.

The Northern Echo:

But, by the time the dynamic Typhoon Eurofighter brought a noisy final flourish to the flying programme on Sunday, the sun was back out, signalling the steady homebound journey for visitors from across the region and further afield.

As ever the awe-struck crowds peered skywards at the amazing stunts and aerobatic feats on show, while a mile out in the North Sea, Durham’s adopted warship, HMS Bulwark, provided an impressive backdrop to the displays.

Crew members gave an exciting demonstration of their amphibious landing capabilities, with marines staging a shoreline assault against the gun batteries of a fictional “rogue state”, in defiance of UN regulations, on Seaburn Beach.

The Northern Echo:

There followed a parachute display by show ever-presents, the RAF Falcons, and an array of flying thrills and skills, highlighted by the co-ordinated aerial capabilities of the Red Arrows, the RAF’s ace nine-piece top dogs, who captivated crowds on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, before heading to Ireland for another airshow appointment, on Sunday.

The Northern Echo:

There was a special Sunderland cheer for the helicopter display of the Royal Navy Black Cats, who have the added advantage over other crews of sharing their nickname with the city’s football team.

Airshow director Sue Stanhope, who is bowing out after eight years “in the cockpit”, said it again went well, despite the slight tweak to the final day flying times, following advice from airshow advice consultants TSA.

“We work closely with TSA, who in turn liaise closely with the Met Office, so we decided to get the historic aircraft flying a little earlier to ensure they could do their displays and then can get back home afterwards.

“Again, the crowds were really big over the entire weekend and people are still coming here and enjoying themselves from across the country.

The Northern Echo:

“I’ve spoken to people who’ve come up from Devon, the South Coast, and London, and I know there have been a number of overseas visitors.

“The number of airshows is diminishing due to changes in regulations, which has made it a bigger challenge to put on events of this size.

“But I have to thank our partners from the military, the police, Sunderland Live and other people working with the city council for helping to make it such a wonderful show.”

Despite standing down, she added that the de-brief would follow in coming days, as her successor's thoughts turn to the 29th airshow, next July.