Folkestone’s Air Display – everyone Gets The Best Seat In Town!

Folkestone has had an air show for a number of years.  It’s a venue that both the military and the audience love as there’s a wealth of places to watch the activity.  Thanks to Folkestone’s location, if you’re standing on The Leas then you are at eye level with the pilots.  If you’re on the beach, the coastal park or on the Harbour Arm you get to watch the aerobatics happen over the sea in front of you.  This might be the one place where you get to see the Red Arrows do a complete display, with a perfect view of all the action.  It’s last outing started with the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight on Sunday 20th August 2023. Folkelife spoke to event director Chris Yates.

“I love being part of the Folkestone Air Display.  It’s a favourite spot of mine, plus the pilots and audience love it too.  I’ve been working on it for the past 15 to 20 years.  It used to be a big monster; sort of ‘organised chaos’ but now we’ve revamped it so that it facilitates the town.  There’s usually time between the displays for people to wander around, carry on with a bit of normal life, and spend money in the town.  That’s one of the great things.  It’s totally free, and all the money from anyone visiting goes straight back into Folkestone.” 

The red arrows

“We bid for the Red Arrows each time and they’re in high demand.  The thing about Folkestone though is we can be flexible.  They fly out from Biggin Hill and we have Red 10 on the ground with us.  He’s their safety officer and also commentates their display to anyone near enough to a speaker on The Leas.  What’s great is the Red Arrows plan their display and as long as the weather is good we get to see it all, at a fantastic vantage point.  Because the planes fly out over the sea, wherever you are viewing the display you can see them.  It’s like being in a theatre, and the sea is the stage.  If you’ve never seen them before, or only seen the Red Arrows do a fly-by, you are in for something really rather special.”

Air Display Credit David Shackle
Air Display Credit David Shackle
Air Display Credit David Shackle
Academy FM
Dirk Seyfried Capel Le Ferne
Red Arrows Credit David Shackle
Air Display Credit David Shackle

community tradition

The local community radio station Academy FM Folkestone always has a presence at the Folkestone Air Displays.  The team help entertain the crowds between displays by finding a wealth of people to interview.  You’ll find out background information about the planes and pilots as well as a bit of Folkestone history too.  Station Manager David Sharp usually volunteers for this gig.

“Nowadays there are a lot of towns that don’t have any sort of air display.  We’re lucky in Folkestone to be able to host the Red Arrows virtually every year.  We also get to see the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight which is very poignant.  The sound of those Merlin Rolls Royce engines evoke feelings of what it would have been like to witness dog-fights above our heads.  It’s important we never forget Folkestone and Hawkinge’s important role during World War II.

“I grew up watching air displays in different places in the country and The Leas is truly one of the best seats in the house.  You’re at eye level with the aircraft and you can see the pilots clearly.  Apparently they enjoy seeing the spectators too!  A lot of families also head for the Harbour Arm or the beach with a picnic – it’s a bit of a Folkestone tradition to have a picnic, a swim, and watch the Red Arrows!”

The Stampe Display Team appeared at 3.15pm performing their aerobatics in open cock-pit bi-planes.  At 4.10pm the Pitts Special flew; these are bi-planes designed by Curtis Pitts and were first flown in 1944.  The show ended at 5pm with the RAF Typhoon‘s debut in Folkestone, a plane that’s used in service today in all RAF operations.

Photo credits:  All Red Arrows are by David Shackle, Spitfire by Dirk Seyfried.

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