Timothy A. Chopp flies a C-54 transport plane to air shows around the world. But for Chopp, there was always something special about landing the vintage aircraft at the air show held each year near Camp Springs.
“It was something that we all look forward to,” said Chopp, president of the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation. “This is the president’s military base. This is where Air Force One is kept.”
Chopp’s co-pilot, Thomas J. Munley, added: “It has been a tradition for years. Suppose we have the Super Bowl every other year?”
Chopp and Munley were among several pilots and military commanders, current and retired, who expressed sadness Friday at the decision to hold the Joint Service Open House and Air Show every other year instead of annually.
The Defense Department has proposed cutting its budget as part of the attempt to chip away at the federal deficit. A portion of those cuts involves scaling back on air shows, military officials said.
“I know its tough to do this, but it has been important to the military’s image to do this every year,” Chopp said.
The Joint Service Open House and Air Show has been held yearly in the area since the 1950s. Last year, more than 190,000 people went to Joint Base Andrews to watch aerial maneuvers and see vintage airplanes over a three-day period.
This year’s show kicked off Friday with a preview for military members and their families along with some school groups. The show will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday. Those attending can see featured performances by the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team and get up close to historic and cutting-edge aircraft.
Air Force Capt. Christian Hodge, chief of public affairs at Andrews, said a lot of bases across the Defense Department made the decision to go to a biennial schedule. “We love putting the show on, but there are significant costs involved,” Hodge said.
It costs about $2.1 million to put on the show each year, Hodge said.
Eric Sharman, civilian spokesman for the Air Force at Andrews, said they were looking at cost savings wherever possible. “We have opted to go to an every-other-year show format to still maintain our community outreach program that the air show does and save tax dollars at the same time.”
For military members at the show Friday, the decision wasn’t sitting well. As retired Navy Warrant Officer Mike Devona watched the Blue Angels taxi toward the runway, he said the show brought a “sense of pride” and needed to be held every year.
Cyreita Ayeni, an Army veteran, was at the base with her 9-year-old son, Alex, who was dressed in a flight suit, and a friend. Ayeni, who was there as a member of the Wounded Warrior Project, said she “looked forward to coming to the show — every year.”
As Marine Lt. Col. Roger Galbraith watched an F-22 Raptor that appeared to be floating in the sky, he said, “It’s just great to show the public what we do.”