“WE can’t believe we’re into our fourth festival.”

For the team behind the Bournemouth Air Festival, the last few years have been a whirlwind – and a massively successful one at that.

Launched in 2008, nobody really knew whether the free event along Bournemouth seafront would, if you pardon the pun, take off.

But take off it did, with hundreds of thousands of people descending on the resort to watch dazzling flying displays between the piers.

Since that first show some of the world’s most impressive aircraft have wowed the crowds in Bournemouth – the Red Arrows, Vulcan, Typhoon, F-16, Spitfire – the list goes on.

The launch of this year’s event will be held next Friday, when the first details of what we can expect to see are revealed.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Jon Weaver, air festival director, said: “We can’t believe we’re into our fourth air festival. It’s gone so fast and we’re trying to move up and make it even better.

“The standard was set in 2008 and even we didn’t believe what we could do until the four days arrived.

“There was no blueprint, we were starting from scratch. When we went out around places like Sunderland and Eastbourne we looked at the crowds and saw there was a formula that was successful.

“We weren’t sure if that would translate to Bournemouth. On the first day on the first festival at 10am there was no sign of anybody.

“Then when the people turned up in numbers that they did it was amazing.

“I remember the moment when the practice of the Typhoon came along, all the people who had been involved in organising it just welled up. That was the abiding memory of that and we couldn’t believe how well it went.

“After the event the number of people who were talking about it was amazing. What I found was everywhere we went people were talking about it.”

Things continued to grow in 2009, with huge crowds, and the team developed the evening attractions.

“The town had never experienced those numbers. The memory of 2009 was the sheer volume, it just went to another level,” added Jon.

Although the event has largely been a big hit, it hasn’t all gone to plan – 2009 was the year of the infamous Roar on the Shore firework world record attempt, which turned into something of a damp squib.

Meanwhile some have also criticised the festival’s costs – but organisers have reiterated that funding comes from trading, sponsorship, brochure sales, the patrons’ scheme and the council’s recession fund, which any organisation can apply for, not taxpayers’ money.

And 2010 gave the team its biggest challenge by far as the Great British Weather hit the festival for the first time.

The Saturday was a complete washout and the other three days saw limited flying.

Jon said: “It was going to happen one year and it will happen in future years.

“We learnt a lot from it. We learnt that it’s important to get the message out that it’s a four-day festival. We learnt about how important the ground attractions were when it was wet.

“We learned that’s a critical part, we’ve got to work hard on things people can do when the weather is bad and the flying is not there.

“We also learned how tolerant people were. They still came, that was the amazing thing.”

The team also found the value of communication with the crowd, something Jon said they would be working harder still on this year.

“We’re putting together a full display and we’re looking at what’s been really successful and building on those things, especially the attractions away from the displays,” added Jon.