Why Sunderland Airshow is worth so much more than hard cash to the city

Even those who match my own knowledge of aviation – none whatsoever – can marvel at the spectacle, the skill, the speed, the engineering and the history. I’m impressed by anyone who can operate a forklift truck or change the oil in a Peugeot 206. So anyone who can fly and maintain a Harrier Jump Jet (one of the few planes I can actually name) is to be honoured.

But it’s what the airshow does for Sunderland that we should really applaud. Let’s start with the bottom line. The Sunderland International Airshow never fails to draw massive numbers of visitors to the city.

It’s been going for 31 years and shows absolutely no sign of wavering popularity. Hundreds of thousands will swarm into the city. It’s difficult to imagine any other event here that could attract those sort of numbers every year.

Hotels and guest houses are usually fully booked. Pubs, restaurants, corner shops and (even) taxi drivers won’t complain. I’ll be in Notarianni’s myself for a cornet with monkey’s blood.

But perhaps even more important than hard cash is the profile the airshow brings. On a number of occasions in my life I have spoken to people from outside the area who were surprised to learn that Sunderland has miles of Blue Flag sandy beaches. A quick shufti at Sunderland’s location on a map of Britain should make this fact apparent; but there you go.

The Sunderland International Airshow never fails to draw massive numbers of visitors to the city. A feature about a Sunderland footballer on Football Focus some years ago opened with a beautiful, panoramic shot of our beach with the foamy crashing of winter waves. Unfortunately, someone captioned it with: “Seaburn: Tyne and Wear.”

To state what should be obvious; Seaburn isn’t in Tyne and Wear, it’s in Sunderland (nothing is in Tyne and Wear: it hasn’t existed in any meaningful way since 1986). The profile of the airshow helps to alleviate this sort of ignorance about your city; which can only be a good thing.

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Remember it comes free, although the description of “biggest free annual airshow in Europe” causes amusement, because it’s difficult to see how anyone could charge for it. Spectacular.

The crowds never tire of scenes like this. My sister’s wedding reception was held in the Stadium of Light on the Saturday of the airshow in 2016. She explained to some relatives from the Netherlands that she had arranged for the Red Arrows to mark the occasion with a flyover that afternoon.

Obviously she was lying. Nevertheless, 15 minutes later nine Red Arrows appeared overhead in their famous pointy formation and some foreign visitors have been telling their friends about it ever since. There are dissenting voices.

Massive crowds can be problematic. So if you’re attending, please respect people and property; and remember there is never an excuse for dropping litter. British de Havilland Vampires over Sunderland in 2018.

Not that dissenting voices will ever be completely extinguished. If Michelangelo’s David was relocated to Mowbray Park, someone would complain that it obscured the view of the duck pond. Let the rest of us enjoy what we can.

Sadly, the Red Arrows are unable to appear this year.

But the 2019 Sunderland International Airshow will still be spectacular.

The Red Arrows were a highlight of the 2018 airshow.

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