THE Red Arrows bade an emotional goodbye to Bournemouth on Saturday almost exactly a week to the hour that pilot Jon Egging lost his life.

The jets, which had been delayed by poor weather on Friday, took off from Bournemouth Airport around 12.15pm on Saturday for their home base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

Lining up on the runway and watched by a large crowd, the jets left in small groups, minutes apart.

As they started up and taxied to the end of the runway, all the pilots waved to a small group of well wishers standing at the end of Target Road on the business park.

The last to leave was XX264 usually flown by Red One, Squadron Leader Ben Murphy.

The pilot raised both his arms in the air with his fists clenched in a gesture that seemed to say: “We’re back in the air”.

They touched down in Lincolnshire around 1pm, where people have continued to leave tributes at the front gate of the base all week.

Flt Lt Egging, 33, from Rutland, died when his plane crashed into a field near the River Stour after a final formation manoeuvre following their display at Bournemouth Air Festival on Saturday August 20.

The RAF grounded all 126 Hawk T1 training jets following the tragic crash while preliminary investigations were carried out.

Terry Trevett, chairman of the Bournemouth Red Arrows Association, watched the Arrows depart from Bournemouth Flying Club.

He said: “There must have been around 100 people there. It was a sombre atmosphere, partly because there was a long wait before there was any news about when they would be leaving.

“Suddenly the whole atmosphere changed when the first three aircraft appeared. Everyone just burst into vigorous applause.

“It was quite something.”

A collection by the Association in memory of Jon Egging has so far raised more than £1,000.

The Red Arrows can display with an eight-aircraft formation and are due to restart practice tomorrow.

And Squadron Leader Ben Murphy, Red One, pledged the team would be displaying to the public again “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

At the end of the runway, supporters spoke of their pride in the team.

Melanie Edwards from Bournemouth, who brought daughter Daisy to the airport, said: “We have seen them every year and my father used to take me to see them when I was small and we feel so sad for them. We felt we had to be here.”

Bob Long, with his wife Sue, added: “We wanted to pay our respects and show our support for them.

“We just wanted to see them off safely. They mean a great deal to this town.”

The couple had watched the display last Saturday from the clifftop.

Aviation historian Mike Phipp had tears in his eyes as the Red Arrows left.

“I remember seeing them in 1965 so I have been following them for many years. I am quite upset. This is a sad day.”

He added: “Hopefully they will be back soon.”