January 17, 2014
They’re back — at least partially. The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels air demonstration teams will once again fly in America’s air shows in 2014, after being grounded by sequestration cuts in 2013. But don’t expect to see them do many flyovers, as the government looks to cut spending.
The Pentagon has decided to resume its military community outreach programs, but pared down the number of events significantly in light of new budget realities, ABC News reported. A 45-percent reduction in the number of events from last year will result in savings of $104 million in fiscal year 2014 and $1 billion over the next decade.
The Air Force has typically performed 1,000 flyovers a year, but under the new outreach plan it will hardly fly any over the next decade.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the resumption of activities in a memo, saying the activities “showcase our superior combat power, demonstrate readiness to defend the nation, and help to preserve the all-volunteer force.”
The Thunderbirds will perform 66 demonstrations in their F-16 Fighting Falcons at 34 locations, and kicked off their season on Jan. 1 to fly over the opening of the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif. Click to view the rest of their 2014 schedule.
The Blue Angels in their F/A-18 Hornet will also resume a full air show schedule of 38 shows in 2014, as well as a full schedule in 2015.
Both teams ceased performing at air shows on April 1, 2013, but were impacted in different ways by the sequestration budget cuts. While the Blue Angels were allowed to continue with training flights, the Thunderbirds were completely grounded for more than three months. That training flight restriction was lifted in mid-July after the Air Force shifted funds to allow many of its grounded pilots to be able to continue with training flights through the end of the fiscal year.
Overall, the 2013 sequestration cuts led to the cancellation of 2,800 military outreach events nationwide, ABC News reported.
AOPA President Mark Baker and AOPA Foundation Executive Director Jim Minow are challenging one another to see who can recruit the most Hat in the Ring Society members for the foundation before the end of the year.
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