The International Ayr ShowFestival of Flight 2023

Has Ayr ever been so busy?

David Milloy

South Ayrshire Council’s inaugural Festival of Flight saw around 240,000 people descend on Ayr’s Low Green over the weekend of 8th to 10th September.
The flying programme commenced on Friday evening with a display of the Gravity Industries jet suit, and aerobatic displays by an Autogyro and the RAF ‘Black Jack’ Typhoon fighter, the afterburner of which glowed vividly against the darkening sky as it performed an exhilarating series of manoeuvres. More sedate, but just as dramatic, was the display of airborne pyrotechnics which brought the evening’s flying to a close.
Although Friday had drawn an impressively large number of people to the Low Green, Saturday’s attendance exceeded even the most optimistic of projections, with up to 180,000 people occupying not only the Low Green but also the shorefront between Seafield and Ayr harbour.
They were treated to a busy flying programme which was kicked off by an impressive display of close formation aerobatics by Team RaVen, a performance which set a very high bar for the displays which followed. Needless to say, for it was that kind of day, they all more than passed muster.
Of particular note was a display by the RAF Chinook Display Team, which showed off the twin rotor helicopter’s remarkable manoeuvrability and drew more than a few oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
It wouldn’t be an air show without a Spitfire, and this one was no exception, with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Rolls-Royce Heritage Flight each displaying examples of what must be the most beautiful aircraft ever built. The Spitfires were joined in celebrating Britain’s aviation heritage by a BAC Strikemaster jet and a World War 1 era SE 5A biplane.

The Red Devils parachute display team dropped in to see the show for themselves, landing in the designated arena with their customary accuracy in spite of the breeze which blew in from the sea. No doubt they enjoyed watching another exceptional display by the RAF Typhoon, which showcased the aircraft’s speed, agility, and ability to set off car alarms!
The flying display was closed by those perennial crowd-pleasers, the Red Arrows. Although low cloud prevented them from flying their full aerobatic programme, they nonetheless turned in a terrific display of impeccably timed and choreographed aerobatics.
At ground level, the Low Green had been turned into a Festival Village specially for the weekend, with a fun fair, food and drink stalls, and a range of displays which included not only classic cars but also classic police, firefighting and commercial vehicles. Steam powered traction engines were also present, one of which could been seen trundling through the streets of Ayr on Saturday evening. There was also an RAF Typhoon on static display. Although somewhat quieter than its airborne sibling, it was just as popular, attracting a long queue of people keen to sit in its cockpit.
All of the armed services were represented at the Low Green, as well as the event’s charity partner, The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
The Festival of Flight will be back next year, South Ayrshire Council having made a five-year commitment to host it. We’re looking forward to it already.