Blue Angels Grounded By Fresh Budget Cuts

The Blue Angels have been grounded. New federal budget cuts that kicked in Tuesday mean the popular aerobatics team will not perform again in 2013, with the US Navy cancelling all Blue Angels shows for the rest of this season.

The new budget cuts, which kicked in after Congress failed to avoid the sequester, will also see the US Air Force ground about one-third of its active-duty force of combat planes.

With the Blue Angels grounded, Navy officials have called off the remaining 33 shows in the flight demonstration squadron’s season. Savings from the cancellations are expected to total $28 million.

Lieutenant Aaron Kakiel, spokesman for the Naval Air Forces in San Diego, told Reuters:

“I know a lot of people are terribly disappointed that they won’t get to see the Blues perform, but there is probably no one more disappointed than the Blues themselves.”

The Blue Angels program costs roughly $40 million a year to run. Launched in 1946 to spur recruitment, the team visits more than 50,000 people every show season from March through November. Since its foundation, the 130-man Blue Angels team, which includes seven pilots, has flown for more than 260 million spectators.

Not only are the Blue Angels grounded, but the Air Force has already cancelled performances by its Thunderbirds exhibition flying team as of April 1. Yet again, the sequestration cuts were blamed.

Among the 33 Blue Angels events cancelled will be the May 27 Naval Academy graduation, an occasion that will see President Obama give the commencement address.

For now, the Blue Angels team will remain stationed in Pensacola, Florida, with the pilots to continue training to maintain flying proficiency. Formations and acrobatics will no longer be practiced however.

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward feels the loss of the shows will have a notable impact on the city:

“Beyond the multimillion-dollar economic impact of their two annual flight shows in Pensacola, the Blue Angels are a fundamental and beloved part of the fabric of our city, and the loss that we feel as a community is beyond measure.”

How do you feel about the Blue Angels having their wings clipped? Is a flight demonstration squadron a luxury in the current climate, or should money have been found to keep the Blue Angels in the skies?