THE Viking Festival's famous air displays could be grounded - in the year the event celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The high-flying extravaganzas are always among of the event's main attractions but the News can reveal they are now under threat because of spiralling costs.

They could be one of a number of cuts on the horizon with the festival's head saying the committee is waiting for news on grant funding before deciding on the size and scale of the 2020 event.

Chairman Alex Gallagher said: "We are at the early stages of getting our finances together.

"We are starting off in a reasonably healthy position after the success of last year but what we can stage is dependent on getting grant subsidies from the council and other revenue streams, such as Event Scotland.

"If they give us what we ask for then we can put on another festival or a similar level, but there are no guarantees. There certainly will be a festival - but the size of it depends on how much money we can get."

Mr Gallagher admitted that the spectacular air displays could be downsized due to their high costs.

With landing charges at Prestwick Airport having also to be taken into consideration by festival chiefs, the committee is weighing up options for the future of the spectacular displays.

He said: "They are obviously one of the costliest parts of the festival and we may need to look at what we do with the displays depending on how much money we have."

Last year the Mark Jeffries Flying Team drew an estimated audience of around 15,000 people to the town.

In previous years, the RAF Typhoon has also provided an impressive aerial display while the Red Devils parachute team has appeared.

Mr Gallagher believes there may be a scaled down aviation event this year and says grant assistance numbers are vital before announcing detailed plans.

The annual running costs for the nine-day festival have varied from £70,000 to £100,000. This cash funds the aviation displays, fireworks and the traditional Viking Village.

Mr Gallagher added: "I don't think the event will be under threat of cancellation, but it costs a lot of money to run.

"I think, given the boost it provides to the local economy, it represents good value. On the second Saturday alone last year it was estimated to have brought 15,000 people to the town, so it is a big draw.

"There is money for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 and there are some council departmental funds we can go for. The shape of this year's festival will just depend on what is available."

Speaking about the great success of last year's festival, he said: "Fortunately the sun came out and visitors came in their droves.

"The festival of fire was fantastic, one of the main highlights.

"We hope that 2020 will be at least as good this year if not better, but a lot depends on the financing and, of course, the weather."

Last year's festival was described by many as the best ever, with a 'unique family friendly atmosphere' winning praise.

Total visitor numbers for the festival were in the region of 75,000 with tourists from every part of the UK and every continent encouraging a visitor spend of around £450,000 to the local economy.