US budget woes threaten the airshow industry

airshow, aviation, Flying Is Fun, politics

If things don’t change, come April 1st US military participation in airshows may become aesl_45_rd thing of the past. 

The International Council of Airshows (ICAS) released the following today:

“By now, most ICAS members in the U.S. have seen news items reporting that the Blue Angels’ 2013 air show season may be in jeopardy if the federal government does not take action to avoid mandatory budget cuts. If these cuts are allowed to be made, they will impact not just the Blue Angels, but all aspects of the U.S. military’s involvement in air shows.

The road to possible sequestration cuts has been a long and complicated one. These cuts may have a significant impact on the entire U.S. air show community, so it’s important that ICAS members familiarize themselves with the evolution and newest developments in this crisis. This article in, a politics- and commentary-oriented website, provides just such an overview (along with a bit of commentary). This article in, a politically oriented newspaper and website, reveals why additional extensions to the sequestration deadline are not likely to avoid short-term budgetary pressure on the Pentagon and, by extension, the impact of that pressure on the U.S. air show community. USA Today published this article outlining in general terms the military’s likely approach to sequestration cost-cutting tactics. This article from a Florida news website explains how even the congressman who represents Pensacola, the home of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, is suggesting that the Blue Angels may become a victim of indiscriminate budgetary cuts…cuts that were originally approved precisely because they would be so impractical and unappealing that they would prompt elected representatives to reach a compromise on the difficult issues related to deficit reduction.

Currently, all four branches of the U.S. military remain hopeful that sequestration-related budget cuts will be avoided between now and the March 1 deadline. Indeed, most are proceeding as though the air show season will continue as planned; just this week, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command released the 2013 performance schedule for the F-22 Raptor. But, as has been reported extensively in the media, the military’s senior leadership is also making contingency plans in the event politicians do not reach some agreement. Three weeks ago, ICAS provided some details on those contingency plans for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Those plans are explained in this January 14 memo from the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and the Acting Secretary of the Air Force, and in this memo from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget. In each case, those plans call for massive restructuring and emergency cost-cutting steps, including a reduction in non-essential flying.

More recently, as the March 1 deadline for implementation of the cuts approaches without a political solution in sight, military leaders have begun releasing even more detailed instructions on how the budgetary cuts will be accommodated with the least possible impact on the country’s ability to provide for national defense. If no compromise is reached by March 1 and sequestration cuts are implemented, the four service branches will institute a hiring freeze and begin furloughing civilian defense employees. They will eliminate all non-essential travel. They will suspend many defense contracts. And they will delay a large number of construction and maintenance projects.

As it relates to air show activity specifically, the current plan is to continue air show training and participation through March 31 and then end it on April 1. This would include suspending performances by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, as well as single-ship demo performances, static display participation, and previously scheduled air shows and open houses at military bases. If the sequestration-mandated cuts are subsequently restored, some of the air show activity – like the training and performances of the two U.S. military jet teams – may resume, following a period of retraining. As an example, a jet team that did not train for three months might require two or three weeks of practice before it can resume its performance schedule. It is not clear right now if military air shows and open houses will be held on the dates for which they were originally scheduled. It is also not clear what the impact of deficit reduction initiatives will be on the military’s involvement in air shows even if sequestration-related budget cuts are avoided.

The ICAS memo goes on to discuss contingency planning:snf12_072

Just as the military is developing plans to implement budget cuts even though they still hope and expect to avoid those cuts, air show professionals are developing contingency plans to operate their air show businesses without the involvement of the U.S. military.

“Although the pending budget cuts could present considerable challenges to our North American air show community, many of our members are already contemplating changes that can be made to minimize the disruption and impact of a reduced military presence during this year’s air show season,” says ICAS President John Cudahy. “The potential disruption is considerable, but our industry has a demonstrated record of being imaginative, resourceful and resilient in the face of these kinds of challenges.”

For proven tactics among event organizers, many shows will likely look toward those shows with a history of doing well without a jet team or single-ship demos. Many shows are already contacting and considering alternative acts to provide the same “grand finale” entertainment that the military has provided in the past. For example, Tora Tora Tora, the Patriot Jet Team, Robosaurus and Art Nalls will likely be getting more phone calls in the next few weeks.

Performers and support service providers who are planning on participating in shows at U.S. military bases will face their own challenges in developing contingency plans that could include the cancellation of those shows, but the process has already started for some. One-time cost-cutting steps and renewed marketing efforts will likely be part of those plans.

As this issue develops during the coming days and weeks, ICAS will use this space to pass along useful ideas, relevant case histories and other information to help our members adjust and adapt during a 2013 air show season that now appears likely to present some unusual challenges.

Unusual challenges indeed.  Canada is not immune from these effects as our airshows have already found it next to impossible to secure US military assets either for flying demos or as static displays.

A not so hidden agenda

airshow, aviation, aviation history, Flying Is Fun, politics

Congressman Michael Turner from Ohio has proposed an amendment to the House National Defense Authorization Act that would bar the Department of Defense in the US from loaning or gifting any US military aircraft or parts if they would be used in flight operations.  Any gifts or loans would only be allowed for static displays in museums.

What would this mean?  Aircraft like “FiFi” , the only flyable B-29 Superfortress shown above in the skies over Florida last month, would be grounded.  Forever.  Flown and maintained by the Commemorative Air Force, FiFi and pieces of flying history like her would never be enjoyed by the public in their natural habitat again.  Instead they would be hanger queens.  The CAF has launched a campaign to bring this to the public’s attention to raise objections to the amendment.

Representative Turner is a former mayor of Dayton Ohio which just happens to house the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  FiFi would make a wonderful exhibit.

Apparently, Representative Turner doesn’t want children given the opportunity to be inspired by the only flying example of the aircraft that ended World War II,” said CAF President/CEO Stephan Brown. “The Queen of the CAF Fleet and the world’s only flying B-29, FIFI is possessed by the CAF as a ‘Conditional Donation’ from the NMUSAF. This means that the airplane is permanently ours as long as we meet certain conditions of care for the airplane. We also have a subsequent agreement to allow the CAF to conduct flight operations with FIFI – and so we have for nearly 40 years. The only way the NMUSAF could ground FIFI is if the law were changed such that it make it illegal to fly her and Representative Turner hopes to change the law to do just that!

From across the border this looks like a pretty blatant attempt by a lawmaker to protect a major constituent by denying thousands of airshow enthusiasts the opportunity to see history on the wing.

The SR-71 “Blackbird”

aviation, aviation history, politics

One of my goals in Dayton was to see the iconic Blackbird.


The Lockheed SR-71A holds all the records for high and fast flight.  85,068.997 feet and 2,193.167 MPH.  It flew for 24 years providing unparalleled reconnaissance capabilities.  From 80,000 feet, the Blackbird could survey 100,000 miles of the Earth’s surface per hour.

The USAF Museum’s SR-71 was the first to fly an operational sortie and was retired in March 1990.




  Each Pratt & Whitney J58 engine produced 32,500 lbs thrust on afterburner.





It’s doubtful that a manned reconnaissance aircraft like the Blackbird will ever be built again.  Satellites and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have taken the SR-71’s place.

A constant in an ever changing world


Surfing through all the updates on Twitter under the #IRANELECTION hashtag and a user name caught my eye.  @michael_crook.  Could it be?  No, it couldn’t be.  Dam, it is!

This waste of air threatened to sue me (and many others) for posting entries about what an unsufferable prick he was when he (and I’m paraphrasing heavily here) went ballastic because a screenshot from a news network was being used without his “permission”.  The long and the short of it is that I caved and took down the posts.  Not long after he got busted.

Well Michael has resurfaced on Twitter to throw his lunatic 2 cents into the ongoing coverage and debate of the unrest in Iran in response to the “fair” elections.

Recent gems:

“You CLAIM you were raped, but like all women, you asked for it in some way or another”

“I support Basij more than I support the protesters. “ (The Basij being state supported thugs)

“No one determines the fate of their humanity but they themselves. If they obey their government, all will be well.”

Ah, Michael, I really missed you.

Freedom 55…Do I hear 60…65…70


imageYears ago, a Canadian financial company touted their “Freedom 55” plan which extolled the virtues of their investment strategy which would let you retire early and lead the good life on your yacht or some bullshit like that.

As the world’s stock markets tank, a lot of my retirement investments are going down with them.  Yet there was George Bush on CNN this morning playing up how this was a serious but not catastrophic blip and assuring a hand-picked group at some factory in Bug Squat Idaho or somewhere that the American worker was going to get the economy back on track right quick.

George, you’re an idiot.  Your administration did nothing to rein in the lenders who got the world into this sub-prime mess.  Now you’re willing to throw a trillion dollars at them while counting on the little people to bear this whole mess on their shoulders.

Go!  Go now!  And take McCain and Palin with you.

Just in case you’re wondering



George W. Bush has 129 days left in office.  Not to say that the next US President won’t be much better but it’s hard to believe McCain or Obama could do much worse.

I’d write something about the Canadian election but I get awfully cranky even thinking about why we’re going to the polls again.  Harper, Dion, Layton, May?  How about none of the above.