Flying action as resort hosts a spectacular two-day show

When your performance space is hundreds of feet up in the sky, there's not a lot of opportunity to meet your fans.

Thursday, 11th August 2016, 1:00 pm
Wing walkers David Barrell, Florence Rollerston-Smith, Nikita Salmon and Martyn Carrington at Blackpool Airport. PICS BY DAVE NELSON

That’s what makes Blackpool different say the stars of the resort’s Air Show.

Stunt aces and flying daredevils spent two days wowing the crowds gathered on the Promenade. And, unusually, they also got a chance to mix with the spectators - Blackpool Airport providing a base right in the thick of the action.

“I had one guy on the tram who was adamant I was one of the Red Arrows,” said Peter Wills, ace pilot from the Twisters display team. “People are so friendly. He was convinced, I didn’t want to let him down.

Wing walkers David Barrell, Florence Rollerston-Smith, Nikita Salmon and Martyn Carrington at Blackpool Airport

“I’m not sure those guys would be heading to the show by tram.”

The majority of the aircraft used in the show were based at Squires Gate - only the RAF’s big jets had to fly in from further afield.

Among those making the most of the convenient location were the Breitling Wing Walkers, whose two 1940s Boeing Stearman biplanes were housed in Hangar Three.

Pilot Martyn Carrington was flying in his 16th Blackpool show.

Wing Walkers Blackpool Airshow PICS BY DAVE NELSON

He said: “Having the airport here makes a massive difference. We can operate from anywhere. But it’s great being based where you’re performing. You feel more a part of it.

“You get a feel for the place.We went into town on the Sunday and saw everything that was going on, the punk festival. You get a real feel for the place.”

Martyn and the Breitling team are one of the biggest stars of the Blackpool show.

With Nikita Salmon and Florence Rollerston-Smith strapped to the wings, the team perform hair-raising aerobatic stunts.

Blackpool Air Show - AirXDrones

It takes a special kind of person to tackle such a challenge.

But primary school teacher turned part-time daredevil Nikita trusts her fellow team members.

“For 10 minutes, your pilot is your best friend,” she joked.

“We know the routines, know the cues, know what we’re going to do. You’ve just got to have faith in them, that they know the aircraft and know the conditions.”

Wing walkers David Barrell, Florence Rollerston-Smith, Nikita Salmon and Martyn Carrington at Blackpool Airport

The skies above Blackpool were challenging over the weekend with strong winds blowing off the sea.

But Martyn said the breeze, in some ways, makes life easier.

“It’s a good spot for a show, “ he said. “The wind tends to be blowing off the sea.

“That makes the air smoother, more predictable. There might be a strong wind but it’s not bumpy, it’s better for us to fly in and perform.”

Peter, from the two-man Twisters team, wasn’t quite so comfortable.

He said: “It was challenging.

Wing Walkers Blackpool Airshow PICS BY DAVE NELSON

“Blackpool is quite tight as it is. There’s the two piers to deal with. They bring in small aircraft like ours because they think we can fit between the piers. But it’s still difficult, more difficult than you might think.”

However, for Peter and flying partner Chris Burkett there are rewards to Blackpool.

“When you come down the Prom and see the crowds it’s fantastic.” said Chris.

“We couldn’t imagine there’d be that many.

“You could see it was packed.”

Victoria English, from Hangar Three, said the show is proof Blackpool Airport is still open for business.

She said: “The commercial traffic might have gone but we’re not closed.

“Some people are surprised the airport is here.

“But there’s still a lot going on as this weekend proves.

“And it’s just a small part of what’s happening.

“In many ways, we’re as busy as we’ve ever been.”

Blackpool Air Show - AirXDrones