THE popular Bournemouth Air Festival is set to return this summer, after BCP Council confirmed it planned to host a programme of events “similar to 2019”.

Thousands typically descend on to Bournemouth’s beaches for the event which sees the country’s most talented pilots put on a display for the visitors.

And BCP Councillor Mohan Iyengar, portfolio holder for tourism, leisure and culture, said the event was scheduled to go ahead as normal this year after it was held virtually in 2020.

But just what will the festival look like this year?

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The Air Festival usually takes place on the August bank holiday weekend, starting on the Thursday and lasting four days.

However, this year, Cllr Iyengar confirmed the festival would take place from September 2 to September 5. He said, following the government’s announcement, the council was encouraged they could go ahead with preparations for the festival.

This year will be the 13th Air Festival to be held in the normal format, although the 14th overall, after last year’s virtual festival.

And last year’s event, director Jon Weaver, said was to make sure they didn’t lose sight of the festival.

He said: “We wanted to do something just to make sure that, at this time of year, we had something to remember that actually the Air Festival is on and not to lose sight of it.

“It’s not just about planes. There are elements around what we do in the evening, the night air stuff, the vintage stuff, even things like demos to really celebrate it and also to say what we are going to do in 2021 in trying to make it a broader festival.”

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The line up for this year’s festival has not yet been announced, with planning for the return of the event still in its infancy.

The only information the council has revealed is the proposed date.

Cllr Iyengar said preparations were “rolling forward” and urged people to stay tuned to further developments.


The 2019 festival featured “more displays than ever”, featuring spitfires, wingwalkers and many planes debuting at the festival.

The Saab Draken, the first fully supersonic aircraft to be deployed in Western Europe, made its Air Festival debut in 2019.

The Ultimate Warbird Flights also showcased their dog-fighting skills in a collection of aircraft, including Hispano Buchon, Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

The Lancaster returned in 2019, completing the full Battle of Britain Memorial Flight line up alongside the Hurricane and Spitfire.

The Red Arrows are usually deployed to dazzle crowds at the Air Festival, however did not attend the 2019 show due to their largest ever tour of North America which would generate £2.5 billion in investment for Britain.

The Red Arrows did feature in last year’s virtual event however, with interviews and clips from displays.

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An estimated 812,000 people attended the 2019 festival, which drew to a close with a unique fly past by The Blades and Ultimate Warbird Flights and a final Typhoon display.

Chris Saunders, BCP Tourism’s head of operations, said at the time: “We’ve enjoyed yet another hugely successful event with impressive displays, good weather and, most importantly, thousands of smiling faces. Night Air is always popular, and this year was no exception with spectacular performances set against glorious sunsets creating must–see displays light up the skies.

“The festival is a great celebration of everything this stretch of coastline has to offer. With action on land, at sea and in the skies, we’re proving that Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole really is the coast with the most.”

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Last year’s Air Festival was due to take place between Thursday, August 20 and Sunday, August 23.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the world came to a grinding halt.

Undeterred by this, organisers teamed up with Centre VR in Bournemouth to host an online, virtual air festival which was live between Friday, August 21 and Sunday, August 23.

The event was broadcast live with interviews and themes like the Royal Navy, Night Air and the Red Arrows.

Council leader at the time, Vikki Slade, said: “The air festival is an integral part of our events calendar one which is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people.

"We want to broaden the programme to reflect the plans for 2021 to appeal to a wider audience, engaging both residents and visitors.

"The team have worked really hard to make sure we don’t miss the air festival. It’s a shame we’re not on the beach but the line-up is impressive with something for everyone.”

Fibre network infrastructure provider CityFibre, supported the event, and Lucy Cooper was tasked with running the event throughout the day.

Ms Cooper said: “CityFibre is one of the main sponsors and it’s important for us to support local events.

“It’s gone really well. We have to adapt in these times. We hope to be back on the beach next year but this is the next best thing.”


It is not clear what the Bournemouth Air Festival 2021 will look like.

By June, prime minister Boris Johnson hoped all restrictions would be lifted, paving the way for large outdoor events like the air show.

The last date on Mr Johnson’s roadmap is June 21, and with other events like the Christchurch Food Festival and Bournemouth 7s also scheduled for the town, the council hopes it will be a busy, vibrant summer again.

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Cllr Iyengar added: “Following the government’s announcements of the dates for easing lockdown, we’re encouraged that the event can still go ahead and we’ll keep our preparations rolling forward while staying attuned to any further developments.”

So, with a return to normality on the horizon, and a busy summer on the cards, the air festival could be back and bigger than ever.

Will you be attending?