Langley air show canceled over sequestration threat
A visitor admires a B-24 Bomber aircraft during the Altus AFB Wings of Freedom Open House and Air Show on May 2, 2010.
Citing budget uncertainties and the threat of sequestration, Joint Base Langley announced Friday it is canceling the Langley air show, which was set for May 3-5. A spokeswoman for Oceana Naval Air Station said it may cancel its show as well.
"The Air Force has to consider the fiscal challenges affecting the Department of Defense and the nation," Col. Korvin Auch, 633rd Air Base Wing commander, said in a statement announcing the cancellation.
"We're taking prudent steps now in order to be good stewards of taxpayer resources while focusing on maintaining readiness."
At Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, spokeswoman Kelley Stirling said that canceling its annual show
"is definitely being considered, but no decision has been made."
If sequestration happens, Stirling said, the Navy is expected to cancel shows by the Blue Angels flight demonstration team for the remainder of the year. Since the Blue Angels are a big part of Oceana's show, she said, "that would mean our show gets canceled regardless."
The annual Oceana Air Show is scheduled for September.
Sequestration refers to the automatic budget cuts due to go into effect next month if Congress fails to agree on an alternative plan to reduce the federal budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
If that happens, the Pentagon faces a $46 billion budget reduction in the seven months starting in March and ending in September, according to Pentagon officials.
A Langley spokesman said he is uncertain how much money the Air Force will save by canceling the Air Power Over Hampton Roads Open House and Air Show.
"It's hard to put a dollar amount on it just because of all that goes into an air show," said Michael Martin, Langley's deputy chief of public affairs.
"Our decision is mostly based on ensuring our combat capabilities," Martin said. "Doing this allows us to reallocate those flying hours to combat readiness and training so we can focus on being able to accomplish a mission."
Scratching the show, which he said dates at least to the late 1940s, is just one cost-cutting measure prompted by the pending defense cuts.
"We're looking at everything," he said.
Auch said the decision to cancel the air show and open house at Langley "was not easy considering the show's popularity and the Hampton Road area's support of the military."
The Langley air show, featuring a performance by the Thunderbirds, the Air Force flight demonstration squadron, typically draws about 100,000 spectators over the three-day run. Attendance at the Oceana show often exceeds 300,000.
Auch said he hopes to resume shows in the future, but no dates have been set.
Langley has canceled air shows in the past, most recently in 1998, 2003 and 2010, for various reasons not directly related to Pentagon belt-tightening.