Sunderland Airshow 2016 to overcome terrorism, Brexit and tragedy to be another huge success

Crowds at Seaburn
Crowds at Seaburn
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Sunderland Airshow organisers say they are determined to make this year’s event take off despite a string of challenges including the impact of terrorism, Brexit challenges and tragedy.

The show launched last night with a dazzling Red Arrows display, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and dazzling fireworks.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend on Seaburn seafront across the weekend.

Click here to go to our live coverage of Sunderland Airshow 2016

But after the Nice terrorist attack in France last week, which killed 84 people, there will be a heightened police presence with armed officers on patrol and road closures for public safety.

The Shoreham air disaster has also placed stricter rules on airshows while the European Union referendum has created uncertainty about the economy.

Sue Stanhope, Sunderland Airshow Director, said: “We have had to think again because of Nice, so now we have these road closures.

“There is no intelligence to suggest anything will happen but we have to do all we can to make sure everyone is safe.”

A vintage jet aircraft crashed into a crowd during a display in Shoreham on August 22 last year. The fireball killed 11 people and has led to stricter controls over such events, including forcing aircraft to fly past Sunderland slightly further out at sea.

Mrs Stanhope added: “A lot of things we already had in place but we have had to review things. We have to think carefully about the crowds and where the display is taking place.”

Sunderland faces uncertainty after the UK voted to leave the European Union in the recent referendum.

Many of the pilots are from the continent and Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said this weekend is a “European event” that attracts international coverage.

He added: “We are in uncharted territory but we are still very positive.

“The airshow is very important. It keeps the city’s profile very high.

“We haven’t left the European community. We are still a very friendly city and there won’t be any difference as we welcome people to our city. They will always be treat with the utmost respect.”

Organisers are using the event to promote what is great about Sunderland, including a Twitter thunderclap that took place at 5pm yesterday.

It saw scores of people and businesses tweet what they love about Sunderland using #WearHere.

Superintendent Sarah Pitt, of Northumbria Police, is hoping the presence of armed officers won’t alarm visitors and people still feel confident to approach police at the event.

She said: “Things have changed enormously, wo we have to review what we do every year. We will adapt to any change and we don’t rest on our laurels.”

“There’s only a small proportion of armed officers there for reassurance. Every officer does not have a gun.

“We do enjoy the event as this is a celebration and we should think of it as that. It’s a busy weekend but it’s a massive opportunity for us to engage with the public.”