NEXT year's dates for the Bournemouth Air Festival have been announced.

After the last day of this year's event was cancelled due to adverse weather, organisers confirmed the 2018 festival would take place from August 30 to September 2.

Organisers announced the cancellation of Sunday's flying early in the morning, as pilots of the vintage aircraft set to display scrambled to get home before the weather worsened and stranded them at Bournemouth Airport.

Indeed, it was the intense cross winds, low visibility and forecast rain at the airport which forced festival organisers to make the call in the interests of safety.

Some pilots performed an informal flypast over Bournemouth Bay as they left, early morning visitors appreciating appearances by the Vampire Pair and the Hurricane.

The beach assault and the timetabled Vintage Sunday ground-based entertainment went ahead, bringing to close a four-day event that attracted more than 700,000 people to Bournemouth.

According to official figures, Saturday pulled in 375,000 to the day show and 76,000 to Night Air. However, some estimates by pilots flying over the crowds put these figures significantly higher.

Bournemouth Council director of tourism Mark Smith, who confirmed the festival raised more than £31million for the local economy, told the Echo: "We've had three good weather days out of the four, with Saturday being absolutely amazing.

"Bournemouth must be the best arena in the UK for this sort of event, there's nowhere else like it.

"The problem with a normal air show is that typically they start at 2pm, finish at 5pm, everybody rushes in and out, and nobody really benefits.

"Whereas a festival like this can be enjoyed day and night - visitors stay overnight, they use the restaurants, it is much more beneficial for everyone.

"What better way to finish off the season, it is very important visitors coming to the town get a great experience and want to come back next year."

Preparations have already started for next year's festival.

"We're constantly looking at ways to make it fresher, brighter, more interesting for everybody," said Mark.

"It is important we never get complacent, that's why we're already in discussions with the navy and the pilots for next year - you've never exhausted the possibilities with something as big as this."

Official figures for Thursday's opening day stand at 70,000 for the daytime and 6,000 for Night Air. Friday attracted 145,000 to the day's displays, with 37,000 at Night Air.

And records were broken with more than 15,000 ice creams sold in one day, and an estimated 1,020 boats in the bay.

Mark said: "It is important to stress how fantastic it is for all the pilots and the organisers, how local people have genuinely taken this event to their hearts.

"It is great for them, and they've commented on it, to feel this genuine warmth from the people they meet in the town.

"It is great local people are not in any way resistant to the event, they have embraced it and want it to get bigger and better. For an event like this to succeed, everyone needs to feel like it is theirs."

Overseeing his last BAF before retiring from the Navy after a 48-year career, Commodore Miller Royal Navy Regional Commander said: “I leave this role as Naval Regional Commander since 2004 with a legacy of which I'm proud.  

"This major high profile event in Bournemouth is an important national public occasion for the Navy. It gives us, in uniform, the chance to tell the public what we do and why. 

"It's so rewarding to be appreciated, especially by the people of Bournemouth and others. When the chips are down and we're at war for instance, this feeling gives us a morale boost and fortifies us knowing we are being supported back home."