Taking to the sky

Some of the most spectacular aircraft in the history of aviation parade the skies over Clacton beaches this summer. Joanne Jarvis does a flight check

FOR THE past 17 years the popular seaside resort of Clacton on Sea has been brought to life by the roaring sound of aircraft thundering through the clouds during a two-day air show.Aircraft of all shapes and sizes are queuing up on the runway to fly past in the Clacton Air Show which in 2009 takes place on Thursday, August 27 and Friday, August 28.Now in its 18th year, the free air show, which is organised by Tendring District Council's Leisure Services, is a well established event, which is expected to attract record-breaking crowds this year.Sarah Daniells, TDC's tourism and marketing manager, said: 'This year we are expecting more than 120,000 visitors and I'm told the holiday parks in the area are already getting booked up which is a very good sign because it's important for us to bring the tourism in.'The show will stretch along the seafront and will include a variety of airborne thrills including a display by the world famous Red Arrows, a Harrier, the Guinot Wing Walkers and the Aerostars.Fans of the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster will also be pleased to know that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will be returning for the second year. The idea of the flight came from the days immediately after World War II when it became traditional for a Spitfire and Hurricane to lead the Victory Day flypast over London.It was decided to form an historic collection of flyable aircraft - initially to commemorate the RAF's major battle honour, the Battle of Britain, and to commemorate the RAF's involvement in World War II. Now the flight demonstrates the importance the RAF places in caring for these aircraft, maintaining a link with our heritage and remembering the national debt owed to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.Airshow flying director Ray Thilthorpe, an ex-Red Arrow pilot who will ensure that all the aircraft arrive and depart on time on the day, said: 'The Memorial Flight is more than just a display, it's a memorial to the people who lost their lives in World War II defending the country.'Ray who was in the RAF for 27 years flying the Canberra, the Gnat and the Hawk before joining the Red Arrows, is one of the country's most experienced display organisers. He added: 'I think the highlights will be the Hunter - a colourful veteran fighter plane which went out of service more than ten years ago - as well as the Guinot Wing Walkers led by Clacton's own Michael Carrington.'Visitors to the show will also benefit from a variety of trade stands and ground events from stalls to fairground rides at the event, which will be held on Marine Parade West from 11am to 5pm on both days.

Q & ARay ThilthorpeFlying director for the Clacton AirshowDid you always have a love of planes and want to become a pilot?I went to a grammar school in Kent and at the age of 14 I was told that if I joined the Air Cadets I would get a plane and they would teach you how to fly it. I was sent on a course and at 16 I was on my own in a glider and at 17 I was flying a Tiger Moth out of Rochester Airport - I could fly before I could drive!

Why did you decide to stop flying?I outgrew flying and I now get more of a buzz out of organising and business. I like the idea of teamwork and everyone pulling together to stage something so successful and enjoyable. When it's a nice day and everything is going well it's a nice feeling.

How did you get involved with the Clacton Air Show?I was the manager for the Red Arrows for four years (1979-82) and I met most of the air display air organisers and got to know how an air show is run from both the air and ground. Later on, while I was a fast jet flying instructor at RAF Valley in Anglesey, I was invited to Southend to talk to the leader of the council and town clerk to discuss a potential air show and in 1986 we staged the first air show on the seafront. Since then I have set up an air display management company TSA Consulting and the rest is history.

How many other shows are you involved with across the country? There are 12, but since I started in 1986 I have organised more than 75 shows.

Which is you favourite aircraft? The Harrier because it's British, unique and clever.

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What has been your biggest achievement in your career?I filmed a QED programme called Round Britain Whizz for the BBC which was the forerunner of the current documentary programme Coast.

What would you have done if you had not gone into the RAF? If I had the opportunity again, I would have gone into farming because I enjoy the countryside, or I would have had a go at medicine.

Have you got any outstanding ambitions?I still have a desire to produce a series of children's books called The Adventures of Harry the Pilot. In the armed forces my nickname was Harry the Pilot.High FlyersWho to look out for at the Clacton Air Show• The Red Arrows• An Apache helicopter• The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight• The Blades flown by ex-Harrier and RAF pilots• Guinot Wing Walkers led by Michael Carrington of Clacton• A Hunter flown by Jonathan Whaley, an ex Royal Navy pilot who also owns the planeFind out more

Tendring District CouncilLeisure ServicesTown HallStation RoadClacton on SeaCO15 1SE01255 686868

Clacton TICTown HallStation RoadClacton on SeaCO15 1SE01255 686633

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