Sequestration grounds U.S. Navy's 'Blue Angels'

    8:11 AM, Mar 29, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CBS) -- It's been nearly a month since mandatory federal spending cuts began. They're about to claim another victim: the Navy's legendary "Blue Angels" are being grounded. Fans who are feeling pretty blue themselves.

    Over 9,000 spectators, about twice as many as usual, gawked at the sky above Pensacola's Naval Air Station Thursday. They were worried this could be the year's final practice of the famed Blue Angels, naval aviators maneuvering a half-dozen F-18's in a Diamond formation at top speeds of 700 miles per hour.

    They're daredevils. But no one has found a way to loop around sequestration, the mandatory federal budget cuts that will ground the squadron beginning next Monday. Navy veteran John Hunt says, "Major loss, major loss. Especially to this area, and especially to the Navy as a recruiting tool."

    Since 1946, the Blue Angels and their acrobatic high speed stunts have wowed crowds and helped the Navy with its recruiting

    But it's expensive P.R., and the Navy must slash $4 billion, its share of the mandatory budget cuts. Part of that is cancelling the Blue Angels regular season, an estimated savings of $20 million. Lt. Katie Kelly with the Blue Angels says, "Right now we are just waiting further guidance to find out what will happen to the Blue Angels practices as we go into April and May."

    But the Navy's not alone. The Air Force puts on a similar air show with the Thunderbirds, elite pilots demonstrating in F-16's. The same budget cuts have forced the Air Force to cancel the remaining twenty shows in this year's Thunderbirds season.

    The Blue Angels typically perform in seventy shows a year. The Navy has already cancelled all four shows scheduled for April. Blue Angel volunteer Troy Corter says, "If they don't fly, if they don't do air shows, they're still going to have to practice. They've got to be ready. They've got to be ready all the time."

    There's a growing chorus of complaints from fans. The Blue Angels hope to practice again next week. But for now, in air shows, budget cuts have silenced the familiar roar of aviation's best-known daredevils.

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