Air shows around the country are canceling their summer spectaculars after across-the-board spending cuts spurred the Pentagon to ground their top attractions — the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds.
At least 60 of the nation’s roughly 300 civilian and military air shows have already been scrapped because the nation’s two elite jet teams will not be able to appear.
The International Council of Air Shows expects that number to climb as high as 150 by the end of the year, John Cudahy, the group’s president, told Newsmax.
“The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds are the Rolling Stones of the air-show business,” Cudahy said. “Between outright cancellations and much smaller events, it is dramatically impacting our business.”
The Department of Defense announced on April 1 that it was grounding the teams to save money under the $85 billion in sequestered governmentwide spending cuts.
The air-show industry supports between 12,000 and 14,000 jobs in the United States, and Cudahy expects at least half those jobs to disappear.
Cudahy said it is shortsighted to save the $9.75 million annual cost to the Air Force of flying the Thunderbirds, when the industry generates about $1.5 billion in revenue from the annual events.
“It is the kind of return on investment the rest of the government would do well to emulate,” he said.
Cudahy said the grounding was another example of the Obama administration trying to inflict the most pain with the budget sequester, starting with canceling White House tours and then furloughing air traffic controllers to disrupt commercial air travel. Congress rushed a legislative remedy for the Federal Aviation Administration to withdraw the furloughs last week.
Cudahy said that he would like the same level of urgency applied to restoring funding for the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.
“It’s been a political football with the American people paying the price,” he said. “They are a national treasure that should not be lowered to the level of bargaining chips.”
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