ST. GEORGE – In the wake of the spending-cut sequester that took effect March 1, the United States Air Force, Navy and other branches of the military must find ways to save money. One way of doing this is by canceling military-sponsored air shows and public air show participation.
The U.S. Air Force announced on March 1 that it was canceling “all aviation support to public events for at least the remainder of the fiscal year and is standing down the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team to save on flying hours and support-readiness needs.”
The Thunderbirds 2013 season is to be canceled as of April 1, unless the budget somehow allows for the schedule to resume.
So what does this have to do with Southern Utah?
Last year, St. George hosted the Thunder Over Utah air show which featured the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team. Like the Thunderbirds, the Blue Angels have also had to cancel shows – but only April shows thus far, Herb Gillen said. Herb Gillen Advertising is the company that coordinates Thunder Over Utah and similar events.
“Now that could change if nothing happens with the budget issues,” Gillen said.
At this point, Gillen said that the Blue Angels have communicated directly with his firm and and the only shows that have been cancelled are the April 2013 shows. Others that show cancelled on the Blue Angels scheduling website are military sponsored air shows, he said, that have unilaterally canceled, not necessarily related to sequestration and not private endeavors that feature military aircraft.
The effects of sequestration on the military won’t impact any air shows in St. George in 2013 simply because there aren’t any scheduled.
“As far as we know, the 2014 shows ought to be intact,” Gillen said. Utah is slated for a show in July 2o14.
While Thunder Over Utah was a great event the City of St. George wants to see return, Assistant to the City Manager Marc Mortensen said the city is not yet big enough to entertain an annual event; having an air show once every two years is more realistic. He said that the City is currently entertaining proposals from various air shows for the 2014 season. As such, it’s too early to tell if Thunder Over Utah will be returning or if a new air show will be featured. As for the presence of the Blue Angels or another flight demonstration team, it is the air show organizers that procure the group, he said, not the city.
“It’s a great event people enjoyed,” Mortensen said.
Sequestration went into effect March 1 due to Congress failing to pass a budget; it places mandatory cuts on government spending worth $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Around $500 billion of those cuts is being applied to the military.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this article.
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