A SENIOR Royal Air Force commander has heralded the unique experience on offer at the Bournemouth Air Festival.

Air Vice-Marshal Simon Edwards, RAF assistant chief of air staff (strategy), said it was brilliant for the armed forces to be back displaying and engaging with thousands of people at the Dorset coastal spectacular.

Speaking to the Daily Echo at the official launch of this year's event, he said: "There is nothing like an air festival and there is definitely nothing like the Bournemouth Air Festival – seven miles of beach.

"A fantastic opportunity to get out there and show people what we are all about. Not just the aircraft, but the team all behind that, who make it all possible.

"I have to congratulate the team who put this on, anyone involved in making sure that this can go ahead safely. It must have been really, really complex in light of the pandemic and I am just hugely impressed."

Asked about what it meant to have air festivals back up and running in the UK, Air Vice-Marshal Edwards said:"Any air show is important for the Royal Air Force to get out there and engage with the public.

"You see the aircraft doing its thing and what you are seeing there is the outcome of a huge team effort. When you see professionalism, the dedication and the way in which we go about our business at an air show, that echoes exactly how we go about our business on operations. It's about the entire team, who then deliver the thing that you see. It's really important we are able to demonstrate to people.

He added: "There's is something very inspiring about an air show – that's the kind of point of them. It is not just about an aircraft. It is about being able to explain everyone involved in that activity and how we get to that point, so going down to any of the armed forces villages, you will be able to talk to people who brought this all to life.

"I remember when I was 13 or 14 at air shows. It was by talking to people that I was inspired to have the career that I have then had. I would commend anyone to come and find out more about what we do and what it could mean for you.

This year's Bournemouth Air Festival is packed with some of the best display teams the RAF has to offer, with the Red Arrows and Typhoon displaying on all four days.

"It is going to be amazing," said Air Vice-Marshall Edwards. "We have the Typhoon doing its thing. Chinook always iconic, those massive counter-rotating rotas, the noise. Also it is iconic because everyone knows about busy it is on operations – that is what it is for.

"Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is always an inspiring sight and, of course, it is 81st anniversary since that decisive campaign in our nation's history.

"And then the Red Arrows. What's not to like about that? This year is the 10th year since we lost Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging and it is great to see the Jon Egging Trust here this year – the trust that bears his name and does so much for so many young people."