THE tenth anniversary Bournemouth Air Festival roared into life on Thursday with a packed programme of displays punctuated by a number of sudden downpours.

Bumper crowds gathered at the beach front and cliff tops to watch some of the best stunt pilots and fast jet aces showcase their skills, despite many concerned having to play cat and mouse with the weather.

It was a flypast by the RAF’s workhorse Chinook helicopter that signalled the start of the action.

Organisers were forced to make some adjustments to the flying schedule, with the Daily Echo-backed Tigers Freefall Parachute Team losing their mid-afternoon slot because of a short, heavy thunderstorm.

But they had taken part in the official launch earlier at the Marriott Highcliff Hotel.

Speaking at the launch, Bournemouth Council mayor Lawrence Williams said: “It is a pleasure to welcome you back to the UK’s greatest tourist event.

“Now without further ado, and great delight, I can announce the 2017 Bournemouth Air Festival is officially open.”

The launch also included an abseil from the roof of the hotel by the Royal Marines.

Royal Navy Rear Admiral Timothy Lowe, said: “It is great to be back, this is the tenth festival and the tenth year the Royal Navy has been here in support.

“We’ve been associated with this event since the very beginning and we are delighted to be back. It gives us a great opportunity. As an island nation we are really, really focused on having a navy. But you rarely see us, we are always out over the horizon. So it is great to have some ships here sitting in the bay.

“This year our ships and people have been very busy, from escorting Russian submarines and ships through the English Channel, to working in migrant operations down in the Mediterranean.

“We are busy, but it is testament to this festival and the importance the navy places on this festival, that for the fourth year in a row we’ve managed to get RFA Argus here in support.”

Following the Chinook was an appearance by a Spitfire, which was greatly appreciated by the crowds. Then the Blenheim Bomber, a newcomer to the festival this year, to its first flight over Bournemouth Bay.

The Red Arrows lit up the skies as the sun began to set in their first dusk display.

The evening performance marked 10 years of the Bournemouth Air Festival.

The Hawk fast jet pilots wowed the crowds once again with their impressive manoeuvres. And while the aerobatic display changes each year, the Red Arrows made sure to perform their popular heart-shaped stunt, leaving a colourful smoke imprint in the dusky sky.

Despite a soggy seaside from the downpours earlier in the afternoon, people flocked to Bournemouth beach to watch the display.

And hundreds of people lined up along East Cliff to get the best vantage point of the jets.

Lt Col Guy Benson, British Army, said it was a huge honour to be part of the festival.

“The army, just like the navy and the RAF continues to be busy on worldwide operations,” he said.

“We still have people in the Middle East, we still have people in Afghanistan, and we are conducting a lot of training operations worldwide. So to fit activities like this into the programme, in my opinion, is essential to connect with society and the local community.”

The Royal Air Force’s Flight Lieutenant David Sinclair said it is the first time the RAF has grown in a generation.

“We have new aircraft types coming in,” he added.

“There is no better time to join the RAF.

“We have the Chinook experience here at the festival, so come down to the RAF Village and see what it is like to be aircrew.

“We have the RAF Regiment trailer here, we are crying out for Regiment gunners at the moment.

“And we are hugely proud to host our charities this year - the Jon Egging Trust, which is close to our hearts, the Royal Air Force Association and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.”

Jon Weaver, Air Festival Director, said: "After a rather damp start to the 10th Bournemouth Air Festival, the crowds have turned out and there is a great build-up of people to watch the Red Arrows and evening displays.

"We are looking forward to tomorrow."