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Military pulls support for Air Show

Budget cuts cancel military air performances and ground displays.

For the first time in the four-decade history of the Vectren Dayton Air Show, the military won’t provide support for the June 22-23 event, which means no Air Force or Navy fighter demonstrations or modern military aircraft displays, a top air show official said.

The cancellation is part of the fallout from the budget cutbacks known as sequestration.

“As far as military aircraft equipment that people are used to seeing in the past, that is not going to happen as of now,” Air Show General Manager Brenda Kerfoot said Wednesday. “That is unprecedented. I don’t think the show has ever gone through a year like that.”

Despite the military’s pullback, the air show will offer free admission to active-duty service members for the second time in the event’s 39-year history, Kerfoot said.

“The whole sequester program has been a bit demoralizing to some people and we felt while the show typically has a lot of military support and that doesn’t happen this year, we still wanted to show our support,” she said.

The Air Force Thunderbirds, a F-16 jet team that was set to perform, canceled the team’s summer season because of budget cuts. Solo jet performances, such as the F-15 or F-18 fighter demonstrations, were a common sight in past years, too.

Active U.S. military aircraft parked on the ground for spectators to explore won’t happen this time, either, she said, but other aircraft displays will be shown.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has had up to 300 personnel support ground operations to pump fuel into military planes to provide extra lighting, and numerous other duties in past air show weeks, Kerfoot said.

“None of that was available this year,” she said. The air show will rely on airport fixed base operators and rent equipment instead, she said.

Show organizers are expecting a 30 percent attendance decline from the typical 70,000 spectators that turn out when the Thunderbirds or the Navy’s Blue Angels rocket through the skies, Kerfoot said. The show will still offer more than a dozen “blockbuster, award-winning” civilian performers, she said.

More than 60 air shows across the nation, or one out of every five, have canceled this season, according to John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, Inc., in Leesburg, Va.

“We expect that number to be closer to 100 before the season finishes,” or one-third of air shows, he wrote in an email Wednesday.

The Vectren Dayton Air Show will highlight the AeroShell Formation Acrobatic team, a MiG-17 demonstration and the flight of the world’s last flying World War II era B-29, “Fifi.”

The air show recently canceled a “Great Wall of Fire” re-enactment of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima, Japan because of an outcry and online petition drive objecting to “glamorizing” destruction.

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