CROWDS were treated to gold standard displays of aerial acrobatics at the silver anniversary of Sunderland International Airshow.
Daredevil antics from the Red Arrows in the skies over the city’s coastline opened the 25th annual airshow.
The nine-strong team twisted and turned through a series of stomach churning moves, including the Carousel and the Feathered Arrow.
Wearing a distinctive red overall Mike Ling, squadron coordinator, said it was a “privilege” to come back to Sunderland.
Known by call sign Red 10, he was paying his second visit to the airshow, which is expected to draw in hundreds of thousands of people to Sunderland’s seafront across the weekend.
He said: “We love displaying here and the crowd is always huge. What is nice is the amount of support that the North East shows the armed forces and we are representing the armed forces, so coming here to Sunderland is fantastic.”
And he revealed that the crowds had been treated to a new move by the Red Arrows, who are in the middle of their 49th display seasons.
The ‘five-four split’ sees the nine aircraft expertly piloted into a loop, before five break off in one direction and four in another, trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke.
Armed with picnic blankets and cameras, hundreds of thousands of visitors crowded along the seafront in Roker and Seaburn to enjoy a sunny afternoon packed with 18 displays of aerial agility, including favourites the RAF Falcons.
The 10-strong freefall display team has performed at every airshow since its launch in 1989 and tumbled from the skies at speeds of up to 120mph, behind trails of red and white smoke.
As well as military aircraft, all eyes were on the skies for award-winning civilian pilot Gerald Cooper and his black and red Xtreme Air.
The freestyle aerobatic champion spun his carbon-fibre aircraft through a series of dazzling and quirky moves, drawing gasps from the excited watchers.
Up to a million people are expected to flock to the airshow over the weekend.
Sue Stanhope, airshow director, said the hot weather had helped pull in bumper crowds.
Speaking on Saturday, she said: “It’s going really well and there has been some new stuff and really big crowds.
“It is one of the biggest crowds I have seen on a Saturday,
“We have been lucky in terms of the low tide. It is great to see people on the beach, because you get a slightly different view of the aircraft.”
Saturday’s show closed with a ripple across the deep blue sea water, with low-flying combat aircraft the Typhoon, which will re-open the entertainment tomorrow at 1pm.
For a full list of the aircraft flying tomorrow and for up to date event information, call the hotline on tel. 520 5518, follow @SunderlandLive on Twitter, visit www.facebook.com/SunderlandInternationalAirshow or www.sunderlandlive.co.uk.