The future of a seafront air show hit by controversy looks secure following the success of this summer's event.

Eastbourne Airbourne has been shrouded in uncertainty but after thousands of spectators flocked to last week's show it is likely the event will return next year.

Organisers say early indications are 2009 appears to be one of the best years ever for the show.

The four-day event claims to be the biggest free seafront air show in the world.

But last year the show made a huge loss for Eastbourne Borough Council after a controversial entry fee was introduced for people who wanted to watch the show from prime viewing spots.

The event had been budgeted to make a profit of £183,000 but instead the local authority was left to cover a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds when no sponsor could be found and people stayed away rather than pay the new fee.

The future of the event was in doubt but this year organisers scrapped the entry charge and visitors returned in their thousands.

Local businesses were encouraged to support the event and the council secured sponsorship from 25 firms.

For the first time spectators were asked to make a donation with the proceeds going towards the cost of the event as well as the Sussex Air Ambulance.

Organisers now hope it will turn into a self-financing show in future years.

During the show, now in its 17th year, huge crowds gathered along the seafront to watch some of the world's most iconic planes take to the sky.

They also saw displays by the Red Arrows, the Tigers Parachute Team and the Guinot Wingwalkers.

Susan Morris, the council's cabinet member for tourism, said: "It was truly fantastic and after months of planning to improve the event and put on a great show, we are extremely pleased.

"It was wonderful to see the seafront looking so busy and for visitors to really be enjoying themselves.

"Judging from the feedback we have already received, 2009 appears to be one of the best years ever for Airbourne."

The council is now studying the finances of the show before making a final decision about whether next year's event will go ahead.

A spokesman for Eastbourne Council said: "Once the final income and expenditure figures are available the cabinet will be able to confirm the 2010 air show will go ahead. Early indications are positive."