IT was a record-breaking weekend for the Bournemouth Air Festival, organisers have confirmed.

Around 448,000 people flocked to the seafront and cliff tops on Saturday, the busiest day three in the event's history.

Yesterday and today saw a total of 850,000 visitors, the council said last night, while in all around 1.2 million people enjoyed the four-day event - and the dates for next year have already been confirmed.

The Coastguard confirmed that around 1,000 boats were anchored up in the bay and the park and ride scheme was 'busier than ever' - something borne out by complaints from punters stuck in big queues on Saturday.

The council reckons that the event creates 500 full-time jobs and pumps £30 million into the town's economy.

Mark Smith, director of tourism, said: “The event goes from strength to strength; it's wonderful to see so many people here enjoying the world's largest free four-day event.

“Bournemouth has got a wonderful festival that not only entertains local people, but is also great for the visitor economy, supporting jobs and helping investment.

“The most important thing is that people who come have a great experience, tell everyone and come back next year - August 20-23.”

And it went down a treat with those taking part.

Speaking to the Daily Echo before his closing display today, Typhoon display pilot Noel Rees said: “It's one of the biggest in the UK.

“The whole package, put together with what's available on the ground, people are not just here for the air events, but obviously that's what makes it special.”

Elly Sallingboe, who heads up the Sally B operation, added: “It's lovely, it's become almost like family now, it's fantastic.

“I've never seen so many people at an air show, ever, anywhere.

“I thought that four or five years ago. The council has got behind it in such a fantastic way and that's why it works.

“It's put the limelight on Bournemouth again.”

Mark Cutmore, who leads The Blades team, said: “The show we do is similar, depending on the weather, everywhere, but the thing that sets Bournemouth apart is the size of the crowds here and the display location, with people on top of the cliffs so they're almost looking level with the show site.

“It's just exciting to see very nearly two miles of just an incredible amount of people all watching the show.”

Miss Demeanour pilot and owner Jonathon Whaley added: “It's been unbelievable.

“Up to now my best display day ever was at Biggin Hill when I flew the Mark One Spitfire and Miss Demeanour, but here I flew the Sea Vixen and Miss Demeanour in one day (on Friday).

Andy Morton, RAF Red Arrows PR manager, said: “Each day the seafront has been packed with people and the team is always thrilled to receive such a fantastic reaction.”

At the end of the Royal Navy's biggest public event of the year, Naval Regional Commander, Wales and Western England, Commodore Jamie Miller CBE, concluded: “We are delighted to come back to Bournemouth year after year - and giving a bit more Royal Navy and Royal Marines each time we do.”