Air Show can­celed for 2nd straight year

Event shelved due to cuts in out­reach in Pen­tagon bud­get

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY PAULINE JE­LINEK

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.

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