Anger for air show organisers as Royal Navy pull out

The Red Arrows over Ayr
The Red Arrows over Ayr

The organisers of one of Scotland’s biggest and most-loved events say they have been left picking up the pieces after the Royal Navy pulled out of its centrepiece demonstration with just days to go.

The Scottish International Airshow – which takes place in Ayr on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September – was set to include a role demonstration featuring a Royal Navy frigate, a beach assault, a Merlin helicopter and a full detachment of Royal Marines and Commandos.

However, organisers were told at the end of last week that resources committed by the Royal Navy could not be guaranteed and the demonstration ‘could not go ahead as planned due – in the main – to financial reasons’. Only the naval frigate is unavailable for operational reasons.

Airshow Director, Doug Maclean, explained: “We have a terrific flying and entertainment programme for this year’s Airshow and the loss of the Royal Navy demo is a real let-down for our spectators, which, with the weather set to be good, will be our biggest-ever crowd to date. We have now replaced the Royal Navy in the flying programme.

“When planning such a massive event, we always expect an element of come and go required – especially when operational aircraft and equipment are in use. We fully understood when the Royal Navy advised that the frigate is required to be deployed on another operational task.

“What we don’t understand, what has left us angry and frustrated and would have left our spectators upset – is that other resources like the Merlin Helicopter, the Faslane-based P2000 ship and the Royal Marines and Commandos have simply been withdrawn with no good reason and will remain in their current locations. That’s beyond comprehension. And, if finances were an issue, why was the demo agreed to in the first place?

“This is a deplorable way to treat the Airshow and shows a complete lack of respect for the tens of thousands of people coming along to this amazing event; many of whom will have been looking forward to the biggest Scottish public display by the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines this year.

“It’s also cost us a huge amount of money – for example, we spent more than £10,000 on pyroytechnics to accompany the naval demo, while we have also put in place increased police and stewarding specifically for the demo, which all costs money and is now unnecessary.

“My team have worked incredibly hard over the weekend to fill this gap at our expense. We will do so in spectacular fashion thanks to the pilots and display companies who have helped us so quickly. We have created a new display with a spectacular aviation scenario which will use pyrotechnics and produce a thrilling show. We have also secured a fly past by the Red Arrows on Saturday afternoon.”

South Ayrshire Council is the main sponsor of the Scottish International Airshow, providing a £200,000 funding package as well as in-kind support worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Council Leader, Councillor Douglas Campbell, said: “The Airshow is the biggest event of the year in South Ayrshire and it’s both disappointing and disingenuous for the Royal Navy to have engaged with the Airshow in such a way, only to pull out at the last minute when the event and the Navy’s participation has been heavily promoted for months on end.

“The organisers’ only concern in the days immediately before the event should be on the weather – not on how to fill 40 minutes of flying display time as a result of an incomprehensible decision. However, what is being proposed in its place sounds really exciting and there will also be a flyover by the Red Arrows on Saturday afternoon, which will create a real buzz as always.

“I have no doubt the Airshow will continue to give a significant boost to the local economy, having generated around £17 million over the last three years, and we won’t let this news spoil what is to come and will continue to support the organisers to put on one of the best events Scotland has ever seen.”

Doug Maclean concluded: “Our focus now is on delivering the most exciting and impressive event we can. The weather is set to be good and we are determined to reward the people of Scotland with a world-class Airshow, so make sure you come and join us.”

The Scottish International Airshow takes place on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September. Further details are available at www.tsia.scot.