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Air Force cancels public events support, including Thunderbirds shows

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 3, 2013, at 12:21 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, March 3, 2013, at 2:22 p.m.

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The Air Force has canceled its support of public events, including the Thunderbird aerial demonstration team shows that had been scheduled for 2013, beginning in April, as the military braces for the effects of sequestration, the Air Force said Friday.

Effective Friday, “active-duty Reserve and Guard units will cease all aviation support to the public,” the Air Force said in a statement. That includes support of all air shows; tradeshows; flyovers, including funerals and military graduations; orientation flights; heritage flights; F-22 demonstration flights; and open houses, unless an event includes only local static assets.

The Air Force will re-evaluate the program at the end of the fiscal year and look for ways to curtail it without having to cancel it altogether, it said.

The cancellations will save flying hours to support readiness needs, the Air Force said.

The impact will be felt across the service and directly affect operational and training missions, it said.

The Air Force will reduce its flying hours by as much as 18 percent, or about 203,000 hours.

“While we will protect flying operations in Afghanistan and other contingency areas, nuclear deterrence and initial flight training, roughly two-thirds of our active-duty combat Air Force units will curtail home station training,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said in a statement,

Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission, and connecting with the public is more important than ever, Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, director of Air Force public affairs, said in a statement.

“However, faced with deep budget cuts, we have no choice but to stop public aviation support,” Kodlick said.

All aerial support at public and military events is flown at no additional taxpayer cost using allotted training hours, the Air Force said in a statement.

The Air Force has canceled the Thunderbirds’ 2013 season beginning in April, affecting 28 Thunderbirds shows. The team will fly March 23 and 24 in Titusville, Fla., according to the Thunderbirds’ website.

The Thunderbirds last performed in Wichita in September at McConnell Air Force Base’s air show and open house.

Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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