Deep budget cuts in Washington mean military flight teams will likely be no-shows at air shows across the U.S. starting this spring, leaving dozens of host cities bracing for thinner crowds and lost tourism dollars.
When $85 billion in automatic cuts kicked in March 1, the Air Force canceled shows at bases from Florida to Arizona and grounded its formation-flying pilots, the Thunderbirds. The Army's Golden Knights parachute team also canceled performances. The Navy's famous Blue Angels said only that military commanders intend to cancel their April shows, though nothing is officially canceled yet.
The Blue Angels are the scheduled feature performer at the Vidalia Onion Festival air show in south Georgia next month.
The Thunderbirds are supposed to perform at the Wings Over North Georgia show in October. Organizers said on Facebook they’re moving forward with or without the Thunderbirds, but they’re optimistic the flight team will be performing again by the fall.
John Cudahy of the International Council of Air Shows said at least 150 U.S. air shows each year count on military performers. Without them, he estimates up to a third of the shows might cancel altogether.