Base officials waiting to make call on Beaufort Air Show
Although the U.S. Navy has announced its intention to cancel the Blue Angels’ appearance at the Beaufort Air Show in April, the demonstration team’s performance has not been officially called off.
So those organizing the show April 27-28 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will continue their preparations and hope for the best.
“We’re in a holding pattern, and we’re waiting on official word,” show coordinator Ivey Liipfert said Tuesday.
The Blue Angels’ six pilots typically fly their F-18 Hornets in about 70 shows at more than 30 locations throughout the United States each year. The team will continue its March shows, but those scheduled after that have been endangered by $85 million in spending cuts — part of the federal-budget sequestration — that keeps military spending at 2012 levels.
“We have been told the Navy intends to cancel, but we haven’t been told it is canceled,” Blue Angels spokeswoman Lt. Katie Kelly said, adding that the Navy is trying to avoid irreversible decisions about the schedule.
The demonstration team typically headlines the biennial Beaufort Air Show. If the Blue Angels’ appearance is canceled, base officials would face a difficult decision: Continue without the headliners or cancel the show?
With or without the Blue Angels, if the show goes on, it will do so without at least two other military teams. The Air Force has canceled its F-22 Raptor and Heritage Flight shows for the year, Liipfert said. However, most other arrangements, including smaller flying acts, concessions and parking, are in place, she said.
The show is free to the public, but premium-ticket sales and sponsorships help offset costs. If the show is canceled, that money would be refunded, Liipfert said.
In 2011, about 102,000 people visited the Beaufort Air Show, Kelly said.
The Blue Angels are a powerful recruiting tool for the Navy and Marine Corps, according to former air station commander Col. Jack Snider, and their absence would also be a blow to the community.
“To get the Blue Angels on your schedule is a big thing because they’re wanted around the world and throughout this country,” said Snider, who is now vice chairman of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Military Enhancement Committee. “For many of the Beaufort people, this is often the first time they come on the base.”
The air show also has a significant economic impact, Snider added, which would be blunted if the Blue Angels don’t attend, and would be lost altogether if the show is canceled.
And that’s not unprecedented. The air show was canceled once before, in 2006, after the Blue Angels did not include Beaufort on their list of stops. They returned the next year and have appeared every other year since, despite the fatal crash of one of its pilots during the 2007 show.
Col. John Payne, military committee chairman and member of the S.C. Military Base Task Force, said many Beaufort residents don’t grasp the seriousness of sequestration, but canceling the air show might make it seem more real.
“This will be a wake-up call for a lot of folks, if it happens,” he said.