2016 Event Review

Bray International Air Show, 23-24 July, 2016
Location: Bray Promenade, Bray, Co Wicklow, Republic of Ireland
Admission: Free seaside show with hospitality chalets available (various prices)
Parking: €5 by Registration
Rating out of 10: 10


The Bray International Air Display held over the weekend of 23rd & 24th July 2016 at Bray Promenade, Bray, Co Wicklow just outside Dublin, is now in its 11th consecutive year. 2016 saw the event move from a single day event to two days following the success of 2015's show which attracted 90,000 people and saw the Swiss Air force Aerobatic Team the Patrouille Suisse with their 6x Tiger II aircraft displaying and flying with an Aer Lingus A320 for a Unique special flypast. Nestled in the scenic town of Bray the dominant feature, Bray Head to the right of the display as you look out to the Irish Sea, with its scenic Cliff Walk makes for a beautiful location and backdrop for the show.

2016 saw a truly International flavour with support from Italy, UK, Sweden, France and Military and Civilian support from the Republic of Ireland. Featuring 26 jets and a total of 46 aircraft and pilots, 50 support crew with 11 acts performing on Saturday and 5 additional acts on Sunday with many first time displays at Bray and in Ireland. Saturday was attended by 50,000 people, whilst Sunday attracted 90,000, making a total of 140,000 to one of Ireland's biggest outdoor events. The weather over the weekend was challenging to say the least with a very dull and overcast day Saturday and Sunday being interchangeable with sunshine, showers, and strong gusts in the early afternoon making way for low clouds tracking throughout the display.

Majority of the aircraft for the show where based in three locations around Dublin with the Irish Air Corp (IAC) at Baldonnel (Casement Aerodrome) hosting the Frecce Tricolori, Red Arrows, Swedish Historic Flight (SAAB Viggen and Draken) and the PC-9s and Cessna 172s of the IAC. Dublin Weston Airport supported the Breitling Wingwalkers, the Pitts of the Trig Team, Spitfire/Seafire and the Irish Historic Flight Foundation's three Chipmunks and DH84 Iolar. Finally, Cityjets new SSJ100 and an Aer Lingus A321 rotating from Dublin Airport. With all these various locations bringing its own problems for timings and locations for the show. With this in mind it has to be said the co-ordination and organisation was timed to perfection with the added burden of transiting aircraft from these various locations which is testament to the Air Traffic Controllers and organisers, whilst also taking into account being close to Dublin's ATC zone for commercial traffic into Dublin Airport.
The Frecce Tricolori arrived in Dublin in typical Italian style on the Thursday before the show flying down the Liffey River and specially changing their normal red smoke to orange to paint the Irish Tricolour. Moving to the first day of the event it can be said that an enthusiastic crowd gathered early in anticipation of the varied line up on offer. The dull grey skies didn't dampen the atmosphere for the display which was opened by the Defence Forces Parachute Team "The Black Knights" dropping into the centre point on the beach. The display Saturday culminated with the Frecce Tricolori giving a flat display under low clouds but their coloured smoke being highlightes by the grey skies. But it was the Breitling Wingwalkers that stole the show bringing a distinct sound in their Boeing Stearman bi-planes, piloted by Martyn Carrington and Dave Barrel with the girls strapped on top of the wings. With close formation flying and breath taking manoeuvres that delighted the crowd the wingwalkers (Emily Guilding and Florence Rolleston-Smith) even moved from their rigs to sit on the leading edge and then moved backwards standing above the forward cockpit for the amazing arabesque.

The only negative to Saturdays display is that some of the acts felt too distant seeming to be further away than the 230 meter line and not making any impact with their routine. Overall though it was a good introduction to the new two day display and overnight the organisers had moved to make changes in time to Sunday's display. Sunday is the traditional day for Bray and with two of Europe's biggest and well known Military display teams on the participating list it was obviously going to attract the biggest crowd.

Before I move on to Sunday it must be noted that for any Display Director and organisers running a show of this scale is difficult enough having to contain with many elements and dimensions. From ensuring the aircraft are on time, ground operations, watching the safe conduct of displays and everything in between the pressure is a skill to contain. On Sunday a fire was purposely started 20 minutes before the first act was due on at the side of Bray Head. This fire took hold very quickly and with the wind gusting up to almost 25 mph and smoke being blown down between the crowd and display line, I'm sure the organisers could have done without this added pressure. Fire crews and the Garda were on the scene quickly and even though the fire kept smouldering and reigniting throughout the display it didn't stop any of the displays and this is testament to the skill of the pilots not allowing such an event to detract from the flying. (Consequently four people were arrested by the Garda for starting the fire).

Fire set on purpose by idiots!
The RAF Red Arrows opened the show on Sunday at 14:00 performing their new "wall" rear crowd arrival. Unfortunately, the Reds, as they commonly known as could only display the flat show due to very low cloud base. However, as ever their flat routine is just as dynamic as the rolling and full displays and spontaneous applause I am sure, was greatly appreciated by Mike Ling (Red 10) giving the commentary. With the lessons learnt the day before it was clear these changes had been implemented to full effect. With all but one act bringing their display's closer and able to perform a more dynamic routine this was helped by the weather giving way for full display sequences. It was only the SAAB Viggen's routine that seemed to have a display line that was half a mile away and as a photographer I didn't even pick up my camera to take a single image. Closing the weekend the Frecce Tricolori had this honour and were blessed with clear blue skies and flew in low for a rear crowd arrival to give a full and excellent display that was the talk of the town all evening. The Italians stole Sundays show just pipping the Red Arrows and leaving 90,000 spectators wanting more and the team received a rapturous welcome back in Bray that evening.
Both days show cased the Republic of Irelands aviation history. The Irish Air Corps contributed 4 PC9s known as "Eagle" displaying in formation and with a solo aircraft breaking away to display the aerobatic attributes of the PC-9M. Three Cessna FR172H Reims Rockets displayed together in their last ever public display in a gentle, tight close formation routine. Representing Irelands rich aviation history the Irish Historic Flight Foundations (IHFF) three Chipmunks and DH84 "Iolar" gave a very sedate display with the chipmunks trailing smoke enhancing their routine. Also in support for the weekend transiting Red 10 and being the jump platform for the Black Knights and Irish Parachute Club was an Augusta Westland AW139.

Se Pardy, Director, Bray Air Display, said, "This is the first time in the event's 11 year history that the Red Arrows have performed and we are thrilled to have them here. To also have Italy's finest, the Frecce Tricolori and teams from the UK, France and Sweden, as well as the very best in Irish aviation is a wonderful achievement for all involved. This really is a very special day for Bray and a day to remember in Irish aviation history. Many thanks to everyone who came out to watch the display this weekend, to the event sponsors and the people of Bray for all their support."

Eamonn Brennan, Chief Executive of the Irish Aviation Authority said, "We are very proud to have been the main sponsor of the Bray Air Display 2016 in the year of the Centenary of the Easter Rising. We are delighted that the Air Display has been such a success. Aviation has played a critical role in the development of the Irish economy over the last 100 years and it remains a key part of the Irish economic system, supporting over 40,000 jobs directly. We hope that this weekend will have helped to inspire a new generation of pilots, engineers, and enthusiasts."
To sum up Bray Air Display 2016 attracted rare gems and variety of aircraft that would compare to some of the best and well known displays in Europe. Many of the pilots and crew reported they received a great Irish welcome and would look forward to returning to the Emerald Isle in the near future. In giving Bray a 10 I can break this down to many reasons. Saturday on its own was an 8 with Sunday being a 10. Am I biased, yes probably, but taking into account the participants, FREE air display, timings, co-ordination and the hard work and effort from all involved to create an "event" not seen in Ireland for some time. A 10 gives credit to all involved from the pilots, crew, organisers, sponsors and the unsung heroes who contribute with no real thanks, but dedication. An expectation for 2017's show has been the talk of social media and the next few months will no doubt be a challenge for the organising team wondering 'how do you' top the event that was Bray Air Display 2016.
Flying Display Saturday

Defence Forces Parachute Team – The Black Knights
Patrouille Tranchant - 4x Fouga Magister
Air Corps – 4x PC9s & 3x Cessna FR172H Reims Rocket
Trig Display Team - 2x Pitts S-1D
Ravens Display Team - 6x Vans RV4/8
Irish Historic Flight Foundation - 3x Chipmunks & 1x DH84 Iolar
SAR Demo - Irish CoastGuard
Breitling Wingwalkers – 2x Boeing Stearman
Irish Parachute Club –
CityJet Sukhoi SSJ100
Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori 10x MB339 PANs

Flying Display Sunday

As above but additional act:-
Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows 9x BAe Hawk T1A
Aer Lingus A321
Swedish Historic Flight SAAB Viggen
Swedish Historic Flight SAAB Draken
2Excel Aviation The Blades 4x Extra 300L (no show to weathered in in the UK)
No Parachute drop due to the Strong gusts

Report and photography byJason Phelan for , translated by the Editor

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