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What will the military’s aerial-demonstration teams do with air shows cancelled?


(Bogdan Cristel/Reuters)

 

The Pentagon last month ordered the military to cancel all of its aerial demonstrations after March to help absorb its share of sequester cuts, which amount to more than $40 billion for the Defense Department.

That order ended the military’s air shows and flyovers for the year while keeping its demonstration teams intact.

So what will the Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels, and the Golden Knights do while not performing aerial acrobatics?

Members of the Air Force Thunderbirds will recruit at high schools and universities, increase community outreach efforts and continue training for their routines so the team is ready to resume its demonstrations once the air-show restriction is lifted, according to a statement from the group.

All told, the Thunderbirds cancelled 60 shows at 38 locations between March and November, the statement said.

“Sequestration temporarily limits our ability to travel, but it doesn’t stop us from reaching out within our community to tell the Air Force story,” said Lieutenant Col. Greg Moseley, commander of the Air Force’s demonstration squadron. ““We’ve always had a robust community relations effort. Until this issue is resolved, we’ll continue to engage the public as best we can.”

(Gregory Bull/AP) (Gregory Bull/AP)

As for the Navy’s Blue Angels, the team nixed all of its shows for April and expects to do the same for remaining performances this year, according to a Navy official who spoke anonymously because the group’s final decisions were still pending.

The Navy cancelled its April shows last month, but it postponed taking action on later shows in case lawmakers and the White House agreed to end the sequester or provide additional military funding that would allow the performances to continue, the Navy official said.

Congress and President Obama recently approved a short-term funding plan that locked in the sequester for the fiscal year and shifted around funding within certain agencies to lessen the impacts of the automatic cuts.

The Navy does not anticipate being able to save its remaining air shows under the new budget, according to the Navy official.

The Army’s Golden Knights have cancelled 70 shows for the year, but enthusiasts can still check out the parachuting team during its training sessions at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, according to Army spokeswoman Donna Dixon.

The Golden Knights plan to increase public-outreach efforts while the air-show restriction remains in place. Members will visit schools and hospitals and work with junior ROTC programs, Dixon said.

The team will also continue its intensive training, according to Dixon. Military officials said the aerial performers need to maintain their proficiency and credentials.

“We have to keep our guys up to standard so they’ll be ready when this [restriction] is lifted,” Dixon said. “We’ll have the opportunity to showcase our abilities when that happens.”

None of the military’s aerial-demonstration teams plan to perform during this year’s graduation ceremonies at West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy.

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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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