Thunderbirds cancelled for academy graduation

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There will be no Air Force Thunderbird flyover at this year's United States Air Force Academy graduation. The long-standing tradition has been axed this year thanks to sequestration.

Because of the federal cuts active duty, reserve and guard units have put a stop to all aviation support to the public. That means no airshows, trade shows, flyovers, including funerals and graduations, open houses, F-22 demonstration flights, orientation flights and heritage flights. Additionally the Thunderbirds have cancelled their 2013 season effective April 1.

According to a press release issued by the Air Force, they are standing down aerial demonstration teams to save flying hours in order to support readiness needs. The Air Force is reducing flying hours by 18 percent which amounts to approximately 203,000 hours. All aerial support and military events are flown to no additional cost to taxpayers by using allotted training hours therefore the Air Force had no choice but to cancel support to the events.

“Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission and communicating and connecting with the public is more important today than ever before. However, faced with deep budget cuts, we have no choice but to stop public aviation support,” Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, director of Air Force Public Affairs, said in the press release. “The Air Force will reevaluate the program at the end of the fiscal year and look for ways to curtail the program without having to cancel aviation support altogether.”

Each year residents and visitors in the Pikes Peak Region look forward to the Thunderbirds flyover and their practice flights around the city a few days before the academy graduation. Many have parties and flock to parking lots just to watch.

Bonnie O'Neill, spokesperson for Colorado Mountain Brewery, said celebrations will go on at the brewery despite the cancellation of the Thunderbirds.

“There is still going to be a graduation. The air show is not going to affect us,” O'Neill said.

O'Neill said they have already booked many parties for graduates and their families.

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