Air Show canceled for 2nd straight year
Event shelved due to cuts in outreach in Pentagon budget
The 2014 air show at Andrews Air Force Base was canceled Thursday for the second straight year as leaders deal with a 45 percent cut in military community outreach funding that has killed some such events for good but breathed new life into others.
The winners are communities that are back on the schedules of the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds after last year’s across-the-board federal budget cuts prompted the precision flightdemonstration teams to cancel most appearances.
In October, the Pentagon announced that the teams will fly again, but at fewer shows than in years past. For example, the Blue Angels will perform next year in Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio, after canceling those appearances last year, according to event organizers.
But the Blue Angels cut Indianapolis and the March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, Calif., from their 2014 schedule, prompting organizers to cancel those air shows — for good in Indianapolis.
The last Andrews air show, in 2012, featured the Thunderbirds at an event that drew about 200,000 spectators.
Officials announced last year they were turning the free show into a biennial event, at a savings of $2.1 million per show.
The next show at Andrews had been planned for May. The base commander, Air Force Col. Bill Knight, said Thursday that it was canceled in accordance with the Pentagon cut in community outreach funding, which is designed to save $104 million in 2014.
“We will miss the interaction that [it] allowed us to have with our friends in the community, but this decision will save more than $2 million in tax dollars,” Col. Knight said. He said base officials are considering other types of outreach programs.
The Pentagon plans to spend $129 million in the new budget year on community activities such as Navy port visits and performances by military bands, Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.
But the money planned for the budget year that started Oct. 1 is still only 45 percent of the $233 million budgeted in 2012.
It will mean the military can attend perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 events, compared to 2,800 in 2012, said Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Defense Department spokesman.
“We are going to be doing most of the same things we did before but doing fewer of everything,” he said Thursday. Restoring some of the money is a way to still do things that help the military connect with communities, while watching the budget at the same time, he said.
The spending plan is expected to save $1 billion over 10 years, Cmdr. Urban said.
John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, said his group is still waiting to hear more details about planned military activities for this year. He welcomed the announcement that the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds jet teams will return but said air shows also have long depended on other participation such as flyovers by F-16s or static displays, which means bringing a plane that stays on the ground for viewing by the public.
“We are cautiously optimistic. The return of the jet teams is a very good thing, but they represent a fraction of the military support” given to air shows in the past, he said.
There are usually some 300 airs shows each year and the military flew in a third to half of them, Mr. Cudahy said, adding 62 were canceled as a direct result of the mandatory budget cuts. Some of the shows that went ahead without military support saw a drop of up to 75 percent in attendance, he said.
The Blue Angels, perform during the 2010 show. The 2012 Andrews air show, which featured the Thunderbirds, drew an estimated 200,000 spectators.