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Mon, Feb 18, 2013

Airshow Industry Hit By Sequestration Fears

Event Cancellations Mount, More Expected

ANN is in the process of cataloguing a number of aviation events, airshows, and open houses, that are already shutting down or getting canceled due to the expected budget cuts and concerns raised by the pending Sequestration deadline imposed by the inaction of our governing body to... well... govern.

So far, about a half dozen major events are either getting cut or cut back as they attempt to deal with Pentagon directives to do so or fearing the financial loss imposed by the cancellation of Military participation in their events. ANN has confirmed reports of the cancellation of aviation events at a number of major military bases such as Luke AFB's "Storm on the Horizon" had been scheduled for March 16-17, Joint Base Langley also announced Friday it was canceling their Langley air show, which had been set for May 3-5; and The Wings Over Wayne Air Show scheduled for May at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have been canceled. Spokespersons for Oceana NAS also admitted that their event was probably on the chopping block.

More such announcements, possibly many more, are expected.

The most recent bad news has been coming fast and furious. Luke Air Force Base officials admitted, Friday, that they have canceled the 2013 Open House and Air Show due to the possibility of massive federal budget cuts. "While I value the importance of this event to both the Air Force and our local community, given the budgetary pressures and expected repercussions if sequestration goes into effect, we need to cancel this year's Luke Days," said Brig. Gen. Michael Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander. "I cannot in good conscience spend some of our limited resources to host an Open House, while the Defense Department considers potential civilian furloughs," he added.

Langley's Col. Korvin Auch, 633rd Air Base Wing commander noted that, "The Air Force has to consider the fiscal challenges affecting the Department of Defense and the nation," and admitted that the decision to shutter the show, "was not easy considering the show's popularity and the Hampton Road area's support of the military."

The Dover Air Force Base open house is apparently done in, as well, after Base Commander, Col. Rick Moore, noted their event was "Not essential" in a January 28th interview for the The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal. "Zero conferences, zero symposiums, zero anything that's not directly related to the mission, and essential," explained Moore.

The Langley and Oceana events are not small potatoes... Langley often hosts the Thunderbirds, and can easily draw as many as 100,000 spectators over the course of the three-day show, while Oceana's attendance can often exceed 300,000. The Luke AFB event drew more than 200,000 people in March 2011, alone.

The local impact, in terms of financial damage to businesses and local organizations, as well as the local aviation infrastructure, is expected to be, "considerable."

Aero-Analysis/Opinion: In addition to the damage done to local economies and aviation organizations by the above-mentioned cancellations, there is an over-riding concern (expressed by those watching the aviation world continue to "swirl the drain") that the loss of the positive and public opportunities such events have in getting the public interested in the aviation industry and supportive of our community will further decimate an embattled industry.

Airshows, Fly-In and associated events have oft been called the best the aviation world has to offer when attempting to introduce itself to the public and in allowing non-aviators to see the value and excitement offered by the industry. These cuts are considered by many to be a crucial and vicious blow to an industry already staggering under the weight of a bad economy, anti-aviation political penalties exacted by elected officials looking for a quick sound byte, and the industry's own fragmentation and fractured leadership.

And if that wasn't bad enough, there are still a number of "older" gremlins for the aviation world and the airshow industry to combat. Not a victim of sequestration, the Wilmington International Airport airshow was canceled due to outside complaints about noise, interference with and/or delays with the limited number of commercial flights taking place at the airport. In other words, the local community did the event in, all by itself... even without help from the Pentagon. 

If the airshow industry is going to be competitive and stay alive through this, and other expected travails, insiders note that the community will have to be aggressive and creative in finding ways to replace the draw of military participation as well as to counter the financial damage that sequestration and the overall decline in aviation's fortunes is creating.

Quite a few of the industry's major players are aware that a major way of life is now on the chopping block and it appears that the airshow community, led by the International Council of AirShows, is ready to pursue a paradigm shift if the sequestration damage continues. -- J.R. Campbell, CEO/Editor-In-Chief

ANN will monitor this issue and keep you informed...

FMI: www.airshows.org, www.dod.mil

 


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