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Originally published Friday, March 1, 2013 at 10:02 PM

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Blue Angels grounded? Seafair plans for worst

Indications are that Blue Angels shows will be canceled this year, and that likely means no Blue Angels show at Seafair this summer.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Blue Angel air shows at Seafair and at dozens of other venues across the U.S. are expected to be canceled this year because of automatic federal spending cuts that slashed military spending Friday.

The cancellations will affect more than two dozen cities that were expecting Blue Angels air shows between April and September, team spokeswoman Lt. Katie Kelly told Reuters.

The Navy plans to cancel four April shows, in Tampa, Fla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Vidalia, Ga.; and Beaufort, S.C., but hasn’t decided about the rest of the year, a senior military official told NBC News.

The Blue Angels team did not get official notice of the cancellations Friday and continued practicing for shows.

“As I write this, the pilots are finishing up their third practice of the day,” a Blue Angels spokesman posted on Facebook late Friday. “They, along with the entire maintenance and support team, continue to put 110 percent effort into every flight and look forward to demonstrating the pride and professionalism of the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Seafair organizers also are awaiting word. Because the potential for cuts in military spending have loomed for a while now, spokeswoman Melissa Jurcan said, Seafair officials have been exploring alternatives to the Blue Angels for months.

“The Blues are an important tradition in Seattle, but when put in perspective, to the significance of all federal cuts, we understand the decision may be to cancel,” Jurcan said.

Jurcan said she would only comment on those alternative plans if the Blue Angels shows are canceled.

Sean Tucker, an air-show pilot who’s befriended Blue Angels team members at the more than 10 Seafair shows he’s performed at, said the Blue Angels’ shows are more than entertainment. The pilots inspire future generations of Americans to do something great with their lives, he said.

“The men and the women who fly the Blue Angels represent what it’s like to have passion, courage, skill — I mean what they do is magic,” Tucker said.

The Navy stands to save about $20 million by canceling Blue Angels air shows across the country. The cut is one of many the Navy will have to make after its budget was reduced by several billion dollars on Friday.

The Blue Angels show at Seafair is a tradition that dates to the 1950s, but there have been years they didn’t appear, such as 1994, when tightened air-show regulations complicated the show’s approval through the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense.

Tucker is hoping there’s still a chance the shows won’t be canceled.

“I think the politicians are just playing games, and it’s pathetic,” Tucker said. “Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you should put your country first and they are not putting citizens first.”

The military-spending cuts would also cancel air shows of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, which performed at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo last year. The Thunderbirds had been scheduled to perform May 18-19 at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane.

Material from The Associated Press and Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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