Budget cuts ground Air Force, Navy aircraft including Blue Angel - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Budget cuts ground Air Force, Navy aircraft including Blue Angels

Posted: Updated:
US Navy Blue Angels jets fly in formation during practices maneuvers. (AP) US Navy Blue Angels jets fly in formation during practices maneuvers. (AP)

By MELISSA R. NELSON and BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press

PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Air Force plans to ground about a third of its active-duty force of combat planes and the U.S. Navy cancelled the rest of the popular Blue Angels' aerobatic team's season because of automatic federal budget cuts.

The Air Force didn't immediately release a list of the specific units and bases that would be affected on Tuesday, but it said it would cover fighters, bombers and airborne warning and control aircraft in U.S., Europe and the Pacific.

A top Air Force leader said the branch would focus its budget and resources on units supporting major missions, like the war in Afghanistan, while other units stand down on a rotating basis.

"The current situation means we're accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur," Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, said in a statement.

As news trickled out that the Navy had cancelled the remainder of Blue Angels' season, business owners and residents of the coastal enclave where the team is based expressed resignation and disappointment.

"I just think it's sad that there are political games being played. I doubt the Blue Angels are even half of 1 percent of the entire Navy budget," said Lloyd Proctor, co-owner of Blue Angel Hot Tubs in Pensacola. Proctor and his wife named their business after the team 10 years ago.

"They have national name recognition and they are loved by people everywhere," Proctor said Tuesday.

Most held out hope that the grounding was temporary and that the season could somehow be salvaged.

Thousands of fans flocks to Pensacola Beach each July to watch the team fly over the white sand and turquoise surf. It is always the biggest tourism revenue weekend of the year, said W.A. Buck Lee, president of the Santa Rosa Island Authority. Lee said he had hoped that the six fighter jets would be allowed to continue practicing as a team and the Pensacola Beach show could be replaced by a routine practice over the beach.

Instead, the Navy announced Tuesday that the six elite pilots would maintain only minimum flight hours to remain qualified in their F/A 18 Super Hornets and that squadron practices would end for the remainder of the season.

"The economic impact of the show for us is more than $2 million," Lee said. "People are going to start cancelling their hotel rooms and will hurt businesses here."

A spokesman for the Navy said team members would be allowed to fly minimal hours to maintain flight proficiency in the F/A 18 fighter jets, but the six-jet squadron would discontinue group practices for the remainder of the season.

The Air Force says, on average, aircrews 'lose currency' to fly combat commissions within 90 to 120 days of not flying and that it generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return aircrews to mission-ready status.

Returning grounded units to mission ready status will require additional funds beyond Air Combat Command's normal budget, according to Air Force Officials.

"Even a six-month stand down of units will have significant long-term, multi-year impacts on our operational readiness," Air Combat Command spokesman Maj. Brandon Lingle said in an email to The Associated Press.

For affected units, the Air Force says it will shift its focus to ground training.

That includes the use of flight simulators and academic training to maintain basic skills and aircraft knowledge, Lingle said. Aircraft maintainers plan to clear up as much of a backlog of scheduled inspections and maintenance that budgets allow.

___

Vergakis reported from Norfolk, Va.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Saturday, April 19 2014 11:52 PM EDT2014-04-20 03:52:27 GMT
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
  • Active shooter drill and training at Etowah County Judicial Center

    Active shooter drill and training at Etowah County Judicial Center

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:04 PM EDT2014-04-18 23:04:12 GMT
    Etowah County Judicial Center staff barricaded themselves in their offices Friday morning, as security deputies searched for armed intruders. The guns were bright orange and solid rubber, as the scenarioMore >>
    Etowah County Judicial Center staff barricaded themselves in their offices Friday morning, as security deputies searched for armed intruders. The guns were bright orange and solid rubber, as the scenarioMore >>
  • Active shooter drill in Etowah County today

    Active shooter drill in Etowah County today

    Friday, April 18 2014 5:22 AM EDT2014-04-18 09:22:38 GMT
    An active shooter drill will take place at the Etowah County Courthouse Friday, April 18, 2014.It's part of training for law enforcement. A full-scale simulation of an active shooter inside the JudicialMore >>
     A full-scale simulation of an active shooter inside the Judicial Building will allow law enforcement officers to prepare for a real life situation.More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • 13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche

    13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche

    Sunday, April 20 2014 1:53 AM EDT2014-04-20 05:53:09 GMT
    Rescuers were digging through piles of snow and ice Saturday for four Sherpa guides buried on Mount Everest when an avalanche swept down the slopes and killed 12 other Nepalese guides in the deadliest disaster on...More >>
    Nepal's authorities temporarily halted climbing on Mount Everest while search teams dug through snow and ice Sunday for three Sherpa guides missing in the deadliest avalanche on the world's highest peak that killed...More >>
  • Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Civil War movie "Union" filming in Montevallo

    Saturday, April 19 2014 11:52 PM EDT2014-04-20 03:52:27 GMT
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
    An independent film crew is in Montevallo this weekend to shoot scenes for an upcoming feature.The movie is titled "Union" and is about a "female" confederate soldier in the civil war.Whitney Hamilton wrote the screenplay. She said she wrote a play about a decade ago that told the story of Joan of Arc, and wanted to write another script about some female combatants from the United States.She researched the subject and learned more than 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil Wa...More >>
  • Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Police believe former student is behind threat at UNA

    Saturday, April 19 2014 10:23 PM EDT2014-04-20 02:23:32 GMT
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old Brian Mitchell of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday. Police say Mitchell is behind a message posted on social media site, Yik Yak,More >>
    University of North Alabama police say that 22-year-old from of Madison, Alabama surrendered to police on Friday.More >>
  • Alabama defense dominates spring game

    Alabama defense dominates spring game

    Blake Sims' bid to replace AJ McCarron as Alabama's starting quarterback hit a snag Saturday afternoon when the Crimson Tide defense dominated the annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.More >>
    Blake Sims' bid to replace AJ McCarron as Alabama's starting quarterback hit a snag Saturday afternoon when the Crimson Tide defense dominated the annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.More >>
  • Marshall leads Auburn 1st team to rout of 2nd team

    Marshall leads Auburn 1st team to rout of 2nd team

    Nick Marshall threw four touchdowns in two quarters as Auburn's first team routed its second team 58-3 on Saturday in a spring football game.More >>
    Nick Marshall threw four touchdowns in two quarters as Auburn's first team routed its second team 58-3 on Saturday in a spring football game.More >>
  • Crime Stoppers April 19: Who took Manquel Mertez Whittsett's life?

    Crime Stoppers April 19: Who took Manquel Mertez Whittsett's life?

    Saturday, April 19 2014 7:00 PM EDT2014-04-19 23:00:10 GMT
    It hasn't even been a year since a Birmingham man lost his life. The homicide happened in the summer of 2013, and police don't want to waste any more time. That's why they're calling on you to help in
    It hasn't even been a year since a Birmingham man lost his life. The homicide happened in the summer of 2013, and police don't want to waste any more time. That's why they're calling on you to help in this unsolved killing.More >>
  • Two families lose homes during apartment fire

    Two families lose homes during apartment fire

    Friday, April 18 2014 11:45 PM EDT2014-04-19 03:45:09 GMT
    Two families lost their homes during a fire Friday night at the Crestwood Hills Apartments in the 1200 block of 49th Place South in Birmingham. Firefighters responded around 9:30pm and they had the fireMore >>
    Two families lost their homes during a fire Friday night at the Crestwood Hills Apartments.More >>
  • Pickens County lawmen are looking for armed robbery suspects

    Pickens County lawmen are looking for armed robbery suspects

    Friday, April 18 2014 11:20 PM EDT2014-04-19 03:20:19 GMT
    Karen Michelle BarkerKaren Michelle Barker
    Pickens County Sheriff's Office want Karen Michelle Barker and Anthony Glenn Poe in custody. Lawmen say the duo followed a lady home and robbed her as she exited her vehicle. It happened around 12pm onMore >>
    Pickens County Sheriff's Office want Karen Michelle Barker and Anthony Glenn Poe in custody.More >>