North East Connected

Letting the Cats out of the Bag

The Black Cats at last year's Sunderland international airshowTHE CATS are most certainly out of the bag with the announcement that this year’s Sunderland International Airshow will see the spectacular Royal Navy Black Cats Display Team joining in the fun. The multi award-winning Black Cats are an exciting helicopter display team who thrill audiences at air shows with their dynamic flying displays in Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters.

Starting with its traditional spectacular launch party at Cliffe Park on the evening of Friday 22 July, this year’s event at Roker and Seaburn is held over the weekend of Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July. The annual Sunderland City Council event, delivered by events company Sunderland Live attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators to the city’s fantastic coastline.

Councillor John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “We should all be very proud of the Sunderland International Airshow. Each year it continues to develop and grow. Its success as the biggest free event in the region is down to a lot of hard work and planning by the teams involved.

“Here in Sunderland we have a great location, fantastic friendly atmosphere and the display teams always receive a fantastic warm welcome from the huge crowds. It is great to hear that the display teams continue to look forward to coming here and once again we will have an action- packed flying display as well as something for everyone on the ground.”

Returning this year to display on Saturday and Sunday the Black Cats will join a wide range of aircraft and display teams including the Typhoon FGR4, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and The Royal Airforce Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows to once again thrill the crowds.

Black Cat Lead Pilot for 2016 is Lieutenant Commander David Lilly. Having successfully led the team in 2009 and 2015 he is looking forward to developing the existing Wildcat routine.
Lt Cdr Lilly said: “The Black Cats are once again thrilled to be participating at the Sunderland Airshow.

“All of our aircrew and engineers are volunteers from 825 Naval Air Squadron and the Wildcat Maritime Force based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset. Each year we look forward to displaying these fantastic aircraft over the spectacular coastline at Sunderland and of course the fantastic welcome we receive from the crowds along the seafront.”

The carefully choreographed display features a full display of the precision and aerobatic capabilities of the aircraft. The acclaimed aerobatic display has been described as an aerial ballet but also features high-speed crosses, close formation work and opposing manoeuvres.

The team’s title ‘The Black Cats’ comes from a combination of the Wildcat aircraft and the naval slang of ‘black catting’, which is a form of one-upmanship by having done something or owning something better than anyone else.

Airshow Director Sue Stanhope added: ” Each year our team works hard to organise and deliver an event that the city and the rest of the region can be proud of.

“Last year we saw our first display of the new Wildcat helicopters here at Sunderland and I take great pleasure in welcoming the team back as they are a firm favourite with the crowds. When they fly they never fail to impress and inspire everyone who sees them and I encourage everyone to come along and show their support for this amazing team.”

Following the opening event, the airshow continues across the weekend between 10am and 6pm with a full programme of activity in the air and on the ground

Sue added:”Along with a fantastic flying display on each of the three days there will be a huge range of on-the-ground activities including live music, stalls, attractions, event hospitality and fireworks. This event, which is still regarded as being one of the biggest and best free events in Europe truly has something for everyone.”

All airshow displays are subject to weather and operational restrictions and display timings for RAF BBMF and all airshow attractions will be confirmed nearer to the weekend.

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