THE team leader of the Red Arrows says they are “excited” to be performing again at the Bournemouth Air Festival – a “platinum event” on the jet pilots’ calendar.

Martin Pert, who will lead the nine aircraft during their aerobatic displays, spoke to the Daily Echo at Bournemouth Airport yesterday afternoon.

The Reds landed there ahead of a performance for Cowes Week in the evening. They were also due to perform a smoke fly-over as three Cunard ships – Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and Queen Mary 2 – set sail from Southampton docks.

The RAF team’s most devoted fans gathered at the airport perimeter at Cobham Aviation Services yesterday to watch the Hawk fast-jets land and greet the pilots.

Diana Vincent, who belongs to the Bournemouth Red Arrows Association, said: “I come here every year.

“ I’ve always loved the Red Arrows, they’re so fantastic.”

Stuart James, a member of the Jon Egging Trust, said: “It’s really exciting to be here. The pilots know me now.”

Gary Mitchell, a long-time follower of the Red Arrows, said: “They’re superb, they’re a British institution.

“I see them here every year.”

And Sorani Mkondawire, who visited with her mum, Tessa Lawless, said: “I feel so much admiration for them.

“It makes me proud to be British. I love flying as well – the sound of the engine – it’s in my blood.”

Squadron Leader Pert, who flies as Red 1, said: “I’m excited to be coming down to Bournemouth again for the festival this year.

“It’s one of the platinum events, and we’re desperately looking forward to it.”

Flight Lieutenant Jon Bond is performing for the first time this year.

“I’m very much looking forward to flying in Bournemouth,” he said.

And Wing Commander Andrew Keith said: “It will be fantastic to be in Bournemouth again, it’s one of our highlights.

“We’ve had a good first half of the season weather-wise so we’re hoping it will hold for the air show.”

The 11th Bournemouth Air Festival runs between Thursday, August 30, and Sunday, September 2.

The Red Arrows will be flying at 5.30pm on Thursday, August 30, 3pm on Friday, August 31, and at 12pm on Saturday, September 1.