EVENING UPDATE: Organisers delight as estimated 200,000 people descend on Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival

ORGANISERS of the 16th Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival have hailed the opening day of this year's show.

An estimated 200,000 people have flocked to town for the annual spectacular, which is being held on a weekend for the first time in its history. And the rain held off to keep organisers and visitors happy - with the wet weather arriving just after the displays had ended.

Air Festival managing director Paul Bayfield said that while the amount of monies received from today would not be known until later in the week, he was pleased with the turn-out on the opening day.

Praising the support of visitors he said: 'We've had 200,000 people turn out today, and the rain held off for everyone to enjoy the Red Arrows.'

With people lining Lowestoft's Blue Flag beaches and promenade, the morning sunshine turned into cloudier afternoon conditions.

While Lowestoft was spared some of the weather problems elsewhere in the country, it did mean that the scheduled appearances of the Hurricane and Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight didn't materialise.

And although the Dakota missed out on its planned flying slot, there was a treat for aviation enthusiasts as the historic RAF Dakota turned up after the Red Arrows to close Saturday's flying display.

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Starting the day off in style, the supersonic Eurofighter Typhoon made a welcome return to Lowestoft to commence this year's show at 12.54pm.

After a three-year absence due to operational commitments in Libya, the �125m state-of-the-art jet roared back into town with a bang.

Five single-seater Yak 50s then performed some spectacular downward bomb-bursts to entertain the crowds, before the thrilling Trig Aerobatic team - formerly the Pitts Pair - took centre stage.

The world's only aerobatic formation wing walking team - the Breitling Wing Walkers - defied the windy conditions to wave to thousands of people.

But sadly the windy conditions meant that the Falcons parachute display team and subsequent salute with a special guest had to be cancelled due to the weather.

The air ambulance and Hawker Hunter F4 soon had the crowds marvelling once more as the eye-catching Miss Demeanour hit the skies. With the Sea Fury - the last propeller-driven fighter to serve with the RAF - returning to Lowestoft, it proved to be a fitting build-up to crowd-pleasers The Red Arrows.

Now with a seven aircraft formation, the display by one of the world's best aerobatic teams drew the most applause and gasps from the appreciative audience.

The Red Arrows are due to close tomorrow's show as well, at about 4.22pm. Sunday;s flying program is due to start at 12.05pm with the Yak's Aerostars Team.

Two Tornado GR.4 aircraft and a Swordfish are just some of the extra aircraft that are scheduled to appear as part of Sunday's display.

Air Festival Director, in charge of stewarding and volunteer support, Brian Hunter said: 'From 10am onwards it has been very busy.

'The general mood seems happy. People seem to be pleased with what is being put on and pleased with the arrangements.

'It is too early to say how much has been put into the buckets, but people seem pleased with the �3 programme fee as they are putting money in and are getting something back for it,' Mr Hunter added.

'The army of volunteers we have got here today have been absolutely wonderful.'

Insp Matthew Rose, from Suffolk Police, said: 'This is a very well organised event, and it has gone very well today.

'There's been two arrests for minor offences during the day - all airshow related - and we are looking forward to another safe and exciting day at the airshow tomorrow.'

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