Flying high: Sunderland airshow is a soaraway success + VIDEO

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PLANES, pilots and picture-perfect weather drew hundreds of thousands to the coast for the 24th Sunderland International Airshow.

From the swift agility of the Red Arrows to the spectacle of the wingwalkers, it was an event brimming with highlights.

The Brietling Wingwalkers display.'24th Sunderland International Airshow, 2012''Picture taken Saturday 21st July 2012

The Brietling Wingwalkers display.'24th Sunderland International Airshow, 2012''Picture taken Saturday 21st July 2012

Among those who flocked to the seafront for the annual aircraft extravaganza was Sunderland-born Tornado pilot Bill Bohill.

The squadron leader based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland flew a jet into Newcastle airport on Friday before joining the crowds to watch the action.

“It’s excellent to be here,” said the former Monkwearmouth School pupil.

“I was particularly impressed with the Friday night dusk show, we weren’t sure what to expect from it, but ended up staying for the night.

“You’d be surprised at how many pilots there are here that are from Sunderland.

“I know three or four from the Tornado team who are local guys and a few from Newcastle but we won’t mention them.”

Warm weather and sunny skies met Saturday’s spectators, though high winds on Sunday meant the RAF Falcons parachute display and the Battle of Britain Memorial flight had to be cancelled.

To compensate for the cancellations, the Red Arrows performed an additional fly past on their way from Newcastle airport to an airshow in Rhyl, Wales.

Flight lieutenant Ben Lonsdale from the RAF Falcons team, who have taken part in all 24 airshows, said: “The lads were gutted not to jump on Sunday, I waited until the last minute to cancel but the winds were too bad at 31 knots at 1,000ft.

“On Saturday we dropped from 12,000ft which is as high as we can go without oxygen. It’s fantastic to come here, it’s one of the best places we jump. You can hear the crowd and the commentator from 2,000ft up and it’s a great buzz.”

City Council Leader Paul Watson said: “This weekend has been phenomenally successful and is one of the excellent portfolio of events hosted in our city this year.

“The airshow is a great example of Sunderland and its people all getting out and getting involved in a great event, it’s something we can all be proud of.”

Coun John Kelly, who oversees culture, tourism and leisure, said: “This is the main event we hold in Sunderland every year and we are really lucky with the weather. I think with all the events in the city this summer Sunderland has had a really positive feel about itself.

“We’ve striven to keep events on despite financial pressures and we believe that if we invest in Sunderland it will bring money into the city.”

He added: “We had the Red Arrows back this year and they put on a great show in what must be difficult circumstances after losing two of their crew. It just shows the level of professionalism we get from out Armed Forces.”

Wearsiders soaked up the sights and sounds of the airshow during the weekend.

Roker-born Norman Coulto, 49, said: “It’s been absolutely tremendous and the weather is beautiful. I came down early to get a good spot on the beach to see all the action.”

Twitter: @sunechokaty