February 27, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
Sequestration could have a negative impact on airshows and force demonstration teams like the Navy's Blue Angels to cancel performances.
Four military shows and one civilian airshow have canceled due to the threat of sequestration and large budget cuts March 1, but the real deadline for deciding if additional shows will cancel is April 1. Military teams will continue to practice during the month of March, hoping some solution can be found, but will cancel all appearances by April 1 if no resolution is in sight.
The 2013 Indianapolis Air Show, scheduled for June 15 and16 at Indianapolis Regional Airport near Mt. Comfort, Ind., will not be reinstated even if a budget compromise is found. A major Indianapolis sponsor set a deadline for learning if the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron’s Blue Angels will appear. That deadline passed and the sponsor has permanently withdrawn. Airshows at four military bases—Langley, Luke, Seymour Johnson, and Dover Air Force Bases—have been canceled as of mid-February.
Other airshow directors have been patient in waiting out the budget drama, said John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows. He said people have already lost jobs over the airshow cancellations, but added that civilian performers are at risk. Those are jobs that will not return even if there is a sudden resolution of the decision to cut the budget or compromise. However, some performers see more attention focused on them at airshows in the event a military team such as the Blue Angels or the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds is forced to cancel. Even if the threat of show cancellations is later found to have been a scare tactic to influence the budget compromise talks, those shows will not be reinstated. The teams would need two to three weeks of practice after a budget resolution before continuing their seasons. The Navy team was to perform at 32 locations while the Air Force team was to perform at 38 locations.
Cudahy was not at liberty to reveal which airshow in the Midwest is thinking of going out of business due to a variety of factors, not just the budget debate. In some cases shows can’t pay their overhead costs, or they face pressure from sponsors as was the case in Indianapolis. Cudahy said a show in the South has 12 contingency plans based on how the budget debate plays out. He said it is difficult to report the situation to his members because reactions of individuals to whether there is or isn’t a budget crisis depend on where they stand politically.
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