The First Cut is the Deepest; Blues Get Grounded

Yesterday it was announced that the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team had become the latest casualty of the budget cuts resulting from the sequestration.

Several Blue Angels shows and public practices had already been cancelled, so the decision to cancel the remaining schedule for the 2013 performance year did not come completely out of the blue.  The federal fiscal year ends in September and it was originally thought that the Blue Angels would return to the sky at that time but that seems unlikely with the time needed to prepare for shows.

The Blue Angels perform during the Wings Over Houston Airshow. Photo R. Anderson

The Blue Angels perform during the Wings Over Houston Airshow.
Photo R. Anderson

It should be noted that the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have also had their season cancelled as part of the sequestration. While the grounding of the Thunderbirds is equally bad, as the grandson of a Pearl Harbor Navy veteran, I do tend to lean a little more towards the Navy’s Blue Angels grounding being more of a loss.

I have been fortunate enough to see the Blue Angels perform on several occasions and have also been to their home base at NAS Pensacola a few times.

As anyone who has stopped at the Interstate 10 Florida Welcome Center knows there is also a Blue Angel jet display to welcome travelers to the birthplace of Naval aviation. So the Blue Angels are kind of a big deal in the Sunshine State as well as throughout the country.

Each time I see them take to the skies it is as impressive as the first time.  There is something to be said for the skill that it takes to harness that much power from a fighter jet and make it do things that it normally would not do. Add to the mix the degree of difficulty of having another plane inches off of your wing tip and it becomes even more impressive.

The Blue Angels perform a Diamond formation during the Wings Over Houston Air Show. Photo R. Anderson

The Blue Angels perform a Diamond formation during the Wings Over Houston Air Show.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, fans of air shows are far from the only people feeling the budget pinch. The National Park Service also has to make due with less funding.

During my recent road trip I spent time at Fort Pickens National Park outside of Pensacola, FL. As the name would suggest there is a fort at Fort Pickens National Park. What the name fails to imply is that the fort and related batteries and bunkers are surrounded by miles of pristine beaches.

Whenever I am in that area of Florida I always try to spend a few hours at the shoreline. While the beach was still sugary white, the water was still deep blue, and the scallops and periwinkles were still plentiful I couldn’t help but notice that there was a little more trash on the beach than usual.

A trip to the restroom also revealed a lack of paper towels.

It turned out that the trash cleanup and maintenance that was previously being done daily was now occurring less frequently due to lack of resources and manpower related to the sequestration.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are grounded due to budget cuts. Photo R. Anderson

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are grounded due to budget cuts.
Photo R. Anderson

While I only saw the effects at a single National Park I am sure that is the case across the country throughout the National Parks System.

I do not want to give the impression that there were mounds of trash or other unsightliness at the beach. It was just noticeable that certain items were not being handled in the same manner that I had grown used to seeing.

The Park Service has a long history of making due with limited resources and I am sure the thousands of Park Rangers and volunteers will continue to do an excellent job of educating visitors and preserving the Nation’s treasures even during these tough economic times.

The Blue Angels will be staying grounded at Pensacola Navel Air Station for the remainder of the year. Photo R. Anderson

The Blue Angels will be staying grounded at Pensacola Navel Air Station for the remainder of the year.
Photo R. Anderson

While I agree that items such as performing at air shows and daily trash pickup at National Parks do not have the same priority as ensuring that there are enough police on the street, it is hard to fathom how they would face such deep cutbacks leading into the busiest times of the year for both.

The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels are each used as promotion tools for their respective branches of the armed forces and the peak of the air show season is the spring and summer months.

While very few people who see a flight demonstration will grow up to fly those planes, they may still have their interest sparked in a way that leads them to other areas of the armed forces in support of their country.

Like the F-18 Hornets, Fat Albert, the Blue Angels' logistics plane is also grounded due to budget cuts. Photo R. Anderson

Like the F-18 Hornets, Fat Albert, the Blue Angels’ logistics plane is also grounded due to budget cuts.
Photo R. Anderson

The same is true for the National Parks. Generations of people have made visiting the National Parks part of family traditions with most of those trips occurring in the summer when school is out.

Now I am not saying that overflowing trash cans will make people less likely to visit the parks this year and in the future, but, I struggle to see how the parks and monuments could be allowed to be in those positions simply because Congress could not agree on overall spending levels.

When the sequestration was first proposed it was meant to be such a poison pill that no rational member of Congress would allow it to pass.

For the rest of the year the rotunda at the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL. is the only place to see the Blue Angels. Photo R. Anderson

For the rest of the year the rotunda at the Navy Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL. is the only place to see the Blue Angels.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately it appears that the rational people were off that day allowing the cuts that no one dreamed could ever become reality to take place.

The National Parks and the flight demonstration teams of the Navy and Air Force will certainly rise again allowing future generations to continue to enjoy them and realize what a National Treasure they truly are.

They just have to find a way to muddle through the rest of the fiscal year first.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if Pensacola Wings of Gold has been released on DVD yet.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

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