Defense

April 23, 2012

Air Force cuts back on air show demonstrations

by Brock Vergakis
Associated Press

The Air Force says it is scaling back its participation in dozens of air shows this year in an effort to cut costs and ensure its combat pilots are getting the training hours they need in a time of shrinking budgets.

The cutbacks won’t affect the service’s premier demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, but will mean fewer fighter planes performing for scores of crowds around the country.

Officials at Air Combat Command eliminated the solo performances of five of its crews based in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah.

Eliminating solo performances by the A-10, which provides air support for ground forces, and the F-16 and F-15E, which are capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, is expected to save the Air Force $15.5 million and allow about 970 training flights that otherwise would have been canceled. The cost savings include fuel and travel costs for the pilots and their maintenance crews, among other things. It’s unclear if the teams will perform again next year.

“The goal of the commander of Air Combat Command is to maintain mission ready pilots, and in order to do that we had to cut some money. And being able to save 900 some odd sorties – that’s quite a few pilots that we can maintain,” said Lt. Col. Mike Brazelton, branch chief of Air Combat Command’s aerial events staff.

The only combat plane that will conduct solo performances this year is the F-22 Raptor, which is based at Air Combat Command’s headquarters at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va. Brazelton said the F-22 was chosen as the remaining demonstration plane because, as the world’s only fifth generation fighter plane, it is capable of maneuvers that other planes are not and it is the plane most frequently requested for performances.

The Air Force uses its demonstration teams to showcase the precision maneuvers its planes are capable of during combat, to help with recruiting and to help build goodwill in the U.S. and abroad. The air show season typically starts in the spring and lasts through the fall.

“Some people look at the demonstration and go `Hey, why are we doing it?’” said Maj. Henry “Schadow” Schantz, the F-22 Demonstration Team pilot. “Overall, this is a way to meet real people on the road and demonstrate what our Air Force airmen are doing.”

The past two years, jets assigned to Air Combat Command Aerial Events performed at 131 air shows each year. That includes a heritage program where modern fighter planes such as the A-10 and F-16 fly alongside vintage jets flown by civilians in aircraft such as the World War II-era P-51 Mustang. This year, Air Combat Command plans to only send its jets to 61 shows, which includes those performing in the heritage program. The F-22 was scheduled to fly at 20 of those shows.

In a statement, Air Combat Command officials said eliminating the solo demonstrations would result in an increase of more than 25 combat-ready fighter pilots.

“That’s a very good thing for our nation and wise stewardship of our limited resources,” the command said in the statement.

Although it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many performances the other five teams would have participated in this year, Air Force biographies show they range from 30 performances a year by an A-10C Thunderbolt pilot to 65 performances a year by the F-15E Strike Eagle Demo Team.

Those biographies say the teams performed for between 3 million and 7 million people each year.

The Air Force says Schantz performs for more than 10 million spectators around the world each year. Schantz said he and his crew also spend countless hours interacting with crowds, which can include children who want to be pilots when they grow up and family members of veterans who are moved by his performances.

Schantz said that while he’s always honored to represent the Air Force, he doesn’t feel any additional pressure as the lone demonstration team pilot performing this year.

“It’s always business as usual,” said Schantz.

The canceled demonstration teams are the F-15E Demonstration Team at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; the F-16 Demonstration Team East at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; F-16 Demonstration Team West at Hill Air Force Base, Utah; A-10 Demonstration Team East at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.; and the A-10 Demonstration Team West at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines October 1, 2014

Veterans: Substantial VA staff will face discipline - A substantial number of VA employees will face punishment for the veterans treatment scandal, the new national commander of the American Legion predicted Sept. 30, indicating that the slow pace of discipline has more to do with the hoops the department must jump through than it does a...
 
 

News Briefs October 1, 2014

Egypt president gives army control of arms imports The Egyptian president has amended a law, giving the country’s army control over weapons and ammunition imports. The Sept. 30 statement from the presidency says Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi changed articles stipulating that a permit for weapons’ imports has to be granted by the Interior Ministry, which is in...
 
 
atk-test

ATK successfully tests Orion launch abort motor igniter

NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of the launch abort motor igniter for the Orion crew capsule’s Launch Abort System. Conducted at ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah, this test is the next step towa...
 

 
uav-coalition

Small UAV coalition launched to advance commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles

Leading technology companies Oct. 1 formally announced the formation of the Small UAV Coalition to help pave the way for commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States and abroad...
 
 
Navy photograph

NAWCWD manned for unmanned systems

Navy photograph A rail launch is performed during Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle testing at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, Calif. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division scientists, engineers, techn...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

NASA employees go ‘above and beyond’

Courtesy photograph NASA Chief Scientist Albion Bowers, Christopher Miller and Nelson Brown receive the Exception Engineering Achievement Medal at Armstrong Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The prestigious award ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>