Sequester Downs Nation’s Air Shows

Congress’ long-running budget battle with President Barack Obama claimed another casualty this month as dozens of air shows across the country were canceled.

The long-running Indianapolis Air Show was the first major show to skip 2013 after event headliners the U.S. Navy Blue Angels bowed out, citing the sequester. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army’s parachute demonstration team, the Golden Knights, also suspended upcoming performances.

With the Department of Defense looking to slash $46 billion from this year’s budget, per the Los Angeles Times, air shows were an easy mark. In a news release, Col. Barry Cornish, 99th Air Base Wing Commander at Nellis Air Force Base, said the move “prioritized combat readiness over other activities, and air shows have been canceled as a result.”

With Congress and President Obama unable to work out a compromise, other major air shows, including large events held in Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia and Arizona, announced their cancellations this week.

Other tourist-friendly activities promoted by the government, such as White House tours, have also been cut because of the sequester, while reduced manpower means longer lines and more headaches for national park visitors.

The acrobatic air squadrons are major draws for air shows, bringing a 25 percent larger audience, according to the New York Times. Without those draws – and the additional military support each show receives – it didn’t make financial sense for the shows to go on.

In 2011, the Dakota Thunder Air Show cost the air force base about $200,000 in expenses, including more than 87,000 gallons of air fuel, supplies, security and lodging for visiting aircrews.

At least two major air shows without a major military presence historically – EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and Wings Over Houston – will go on as planned.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Sebastian Bergmann]