Small army to make sure Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival goes well

WITH just a week to go until the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival, organisers are confident everything will be ready on time and they will have a small army of workers on hand to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Putting on an airshow is an extremely complex operation and requires a great degree of teamwork – and The Journal has this week taken a look behind the scenes of the award-winning event.

The Air Festival, which is being held over a weekend for the first time in the event's history next Saturday and Sunday, takes a year to organise.

And a key part in the whole process is the project plan which details all the tasks to be done, ownership of the tasks and dates to achieve.

Managing director Paul Bayfield said: 'The project plan has been developed over a number of years and allows us to keep track of the many jobs that need to be done and the teams who have been earmarked to do them. A no-holds-barred debriefing meeting to review and learn from the previous year's event is held soon after each airshow and the plan is refined accordingly.

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'For example this year we are introducing a new style programme and have had to rearrange our welcome team of pink tabard volunteers who greet the spectators,' Mr Bayfield added. 'Our expectation is that all our visitors coming to see this fantastic airshow will be happy to pay a �3 fee per person and in return will be given a 60-page programme packed with information but also including over �170 of money saving vouchers inside.'

Another change this year is the introduction of park and walk facilities at Riverside Road, near Lings Honda, which joins four other official Air Festival parking sites.

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Mr Bayfield explained that there are a number of diverse teams involved in the event including:

The volunteer steering committee who meet monthly to plan the detail of the event.

The event control team who deal with all the queries and coordinate all the incidents that occur during the event.

Site services team, providing temporary toilets, barriers, generators and portable buildings.

Cleansing team who remove tonnes of rubbish and keep the toilets clean.

Traffic management contractors who deal with no waiting cones, tow away zones and road traffic signs.

Lifeguards who ensure swimmers do not stray into the exclusion zone and are on standby when the parachutists drop on to the beach.

Emergency Planning Officers who monitor all incidents and liaise with the emergency services and with St John Ambulance.

The Operations and Sponsorship team who amongst other duties manage the many traders and the ground entertainment.

The hospitality hosts who ensure that sponsors and guests are given a value for money VIP experience.

100 Volunteer stewards that are required to maintain crowd safety during the flying display.

A team of more than 200 volunteers from community groups to collect fees from the arriving visitors.

Sea Safety team who ensure that a exclusion zone is established offshore, above which the aircraft perform their intricate manoeuvres.

The publicity and advertising team who ensure that the event is publicised and that the needs of media are accommodated.

Several vital partnerships are established to ensure the Air Festival can take place at all and not least of these is the flying display director, Tim Miller's role.

He liaises with the Royal Air Force, foreign Air Forces and other private aircraft operators to book displays that will produce a flying programme that will bring a mixture of both thrills and skills.

Then on the day he, together with three colleagues who form the Flying Control Committee, manage the whole flying display, talking by radio to the pilots to ensure everyone's safety at all times.

The Air Festival operations and sponsorship manager Keith Moughton is the link between all the teams and his role ensures that all the tasks necessary for the event are completed.

The airshow takes three days to set up but the various teams have the site clearance down to a fine art, with most areas back to normal by the following day after the event.

One of the final tests that any incident will be competently handled is a table-top exercise which is attended by the organisers, representatives of all the emergency services and led by the emergency planning officers. One such meeting was held a fortnight ago at Lowestoft Town Hall and a number of scenarios were debated – all with satisfactory outcomes.

Now with all the various teams ready, all that is needed is some good weather so that hundreds of thousands of spectators can enjoy a thrilling and safe show.

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