Thousands of people have watched aerobatic displays from the shores of Eastbourne this week, but The Argus was given the opportunity to discover how they looked from the sky. FLORA THOMPSON reports.
MY heart was in my mouth as I prepared to take off from Shoreham Airport yesterday with the Blades display team. I had been invited to witness first-hand the daring stunts executed by the former Red Arrows pilots as a passenger on board one of the Extra 300s.
I was excited and nervous. I knew I was in safe hands with Blade 3 Andy Evans who took me on a tour of the skies in the model's 330 - the fleet's most powerful aircraft.
Instead I sat back, enjoyed the views and watched the other planes do all the hard work as we glided over sights including Arundel Castle, Worthing and across the English Channel.
Glimpses of Lancing College were breathtaking as we drifted between clouds and I grew used to experiencing general manoeuvres where the plane tipped from side to side.
I could not help but gasp in awe and admiration as I witnessed the fellow Blades tipping their passengers upside down, taking them on a few famous loops at 3,500 ft, flying backwards and 'barrel rolling' as the planes twisted and turned elegantly through the air at around 165mph up in front of me.
I was comforted by learning that only 5% of Blades passengers can brave the most extreme tricks. Lieutenant commander Evans said training to be a display pilot takes time but was worth.
He said: “I decided I wanted to be a pilot when I was 16 and I love what I do.
“Every formation we carry out is meticulously planned out, there is no improvisation, but we have great fun executing the displays.
“I’ve taken part in Eastbourne air show a number of times but this year I certainly think the crowd on the beach on the Thursday was the biggest it has ever been.”