The Red Arrows made a soaring tribute to Bradley Lowery by creating a blue heart in the skies above Seaburn.
Touched by the six-year-old’s death earlier this month after he lost his long battle with cancer, the Royal Air Force aerobatic team honoured him with the touching tribute, a twist on their usual red heart display.
Despite being one aircraft down due to a bird strike damaging one of the nine jets, the team still put on a spectacular display and are hoping for a replacement plane in time for the weekend’s displays.
The crowd-pleasers were a highlight of the opening night of this year’s Sunderland International Airshow, which featured a host of live music performances from ‘pit pop’ band Dennis, from Hetton, The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood and a ‘90s music medley to mark 25 years since Sunderland became a city, as well as a flying programme.
Around 20,000 people flocked to the seafront to see the Red Arrows, as well as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Typhoon.
Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “The opening night is something we started about four years ago, and it’s proved very popular with people.
“It’s a great way to promote local artists and give people some musical entertainment, as well a flying programme.”
Speaking about the Airshow, which continues on Saturday and Sunday, with two full days of flying, he said: “It’s a fantastic attraction for the city and the region as a whole.
“Fresh from the fantastic news that we’ve made the shortlist for City of Culture 2021, it puts us at the heart of the region.”
Former X Factor star Brenda Edwards also performed, singing tracks from musical We Will Rock You and Hairspray, ahead of the latter’s run at the Sunderland Empire in September.
She said: “It’s great to be back in Sunderland. I was last here with We Will Rock You in 2009, but this is my first time at the Airshow, the atmosphere is incredible. It’s great to see so many people here.”