Military Pulls the Plug on Airshows

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds could soon be grounded.

Facing looming sequestration budget cuts that are due to take effect on March 1, the Air Force has decided to cancel a number of popular upcoming airshows. At the same time, the Defense Department says it is prepared to put a halt to all “non-essential” military flying on April 1, including performances this year by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.

The upcoming airshows at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona (March 16-17), Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (May 3-5) and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina (May 18-19) all have been canceled due to the threat of sequestration cuts, the Air Force said.

Luke Air Force Base was the first to cancel its airshow and open house this year.

“While I value the importance of this event to both the Air Force and our local community, given the budgetary pressures and expected repercussions if sequestration goes into effect, we need to cancel this year’s Luke Days,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Rothstein, commander at Luke Air Force Base. “I cannot in good conscience spend some of our limited resources to host an open house while the Defense Department considers potential civilian furloughs.”

As we’ve reported, sequestration cuts are expected to cut deep in aviation, leading to temporary layoffs of defense contractor personnel, some tower controllers and FAA staff if Congress can’t work out a budget agreement by the end of the month.

Contingency planning by the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps calls for a complete end to all non-essential flying — including airshow performances — if sequestration cuts are implemented. The Defense Department says the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and tactical demonstration teams will continue to prepare for the 2013 airshow season through March 31, but if no resolution comes by then, all flight preparation will cease and the teams will stop flying on April 1.

In addition to an abrupt end to airshow performances, the military will also stop supporting airshows with static display aircraft. Although specific details about airshows and open houses held on other military bases have not been released, it is likely that these events will also be canceled if sequestration cuts drag on into the summer.


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