THE Blades Aerobatics Team got the party started, with the opening display of the twelfth Bournemouth Air Festival.

Bumper crowds packed the beaches and clifftops for day one of the four-day event, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators into town.

Yesterday morning, at an event attended by civic dignitaries and military top brass, BCP Council chairman David Flagg officially opened proceedings.

He told those gathered: "Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the UK's greatest tourist event, the award-winning Bournemouth Air Festival.

"A packed four-day programme such as this involves hard work and dedication throughout the year.

"I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the BCP Tourism team, the seafront teams, BCP Council, our emergency services, volunteers and supporters, and last but not least, our armed forces, who have all worked tirelessly to make this event happen.

"It just remains for me as chairman of the BCP Council , with great delight, to announce the 2019 Bournemouth Air Festival is officially open."

As well as putting in the first performance of the day's packed display schedule, the Blades also performed a five minute display at the morning launch event, which took place in the private gardens of the Highcliff Marriot Hotel.

Blades commentator Annie Stokes told the Daily Echo: "We've been doing Bournemouth since 2008, this is my first season with the Blades.

"This is definitely my favourite air show to come to.

"Especially when you consider last year, more than one million people came along.

"It is always good to be able to get a bit of feedback from the crowd, an Bournemouth is very good for that."

Royal Navy Commander Steve Henaghen said: "This is a really exciting time for the Royal Navy. As far as the navy is concerned this is the best development programme we have had in about twenty years.

"Notwithstanding that we still find the time to get ourselves to the Bournemouth Air Festival.

"The Royal Navy has been here since the inception in 2008, when it was a relatively small affair, to what has now become, in 2019, the largest non-ticketed air show in the country with a footfall more than nine million over the past 12 years.

"What we have here this year is RFA Lyme Bay, one of the amphibious support ships. She'll be here for the duration.

"Arriving a bit later this morning one of our Type 23s HMS Argyll will be arriving. We have two P2000 craft running out of Poole."

British Army Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Attwell reminded guests of the close ties between the army and the south west region.

He added: ""We wouldn't be able to deliver the contribution that we make to defence without the cooperation and good support from you all.

"On behalf of the army I would like to say thank you for that continued support.

"We have the military village down on the beach, we would be pleased if you were to come and see our young people, and have the chance to get your hands on a Challenger II main battle tank, the 101mm gun and the Jackal armoured vehicle.

Meanwhile, Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Pippa INSERT said she was looking forward to a number of RAF aircraft in theskies over the next few days.

"Our Tucano Display Team will be here and, of course, the slap of the Chinook which you cannot beat.

"I'm looking forward to seeing our displays, I'm looking forward to an excellent festival."

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