BARREL rolls, nosedives and loop-the-loops became familiar sights in the skies above Southend as aviation fans lapped up two days of aeronautical stunts and displays.

The 2011 Southend Airshow attracted about 300,000 people to the town’s seafront to watch the spectacular sights overhead on Saturday and yesterday.

Despite windy conditions forcing several postponements and alterations to the running order, organisers managed to squeeze in most of the advertised performances.

Among the highlights were displays by the world-famous Red Arrows, the Breitling Wingwalkers and the last flying Vulcan bomber, which made its first appearance of the summer at the show.

Dean Maddocks, 24, from Salisbury, in Wiltshire, travelled more than 150 miles to watch the festival for the first time.

He said: “It was astounding – absolutely amazing.

“I’m a big fan of everything to do with planes and the air, but I’ve never seen so many displays in one place before.

“The fact that it was all free just topped it off for me.

“It’s a fantastic thing to have and Southend should be proud of it.”

As well as the flights, dozens of gaming stalls, flight simulators and fast-food outlets were set up along the seafront to cater for the crowds.

Youngsters enjoyed an abseiling tower set up by the Army, while members of the RAF discussed their jobs with passers-by.

Onlookers were also treated to a performance by the Band of the Royal Marines – the first time the 41-piece marching band has appeared at the show.

On both days, Southend’s High Street became a snaking train of tourists making their way down to the Sky Tower and scattering across the seafront gardens for more than a mile.

Jim Acherson, 78, of St Andrew’s Road, Shoebury, has been to every one of the town’s 26 airshows.

He said: “I just adore it. It’s such a wonderful thing to put on for the town and I don’t see how anyone can complain it.

“It’s just as spectacular now as when it began, and I just hope it keeps going for years to come.”