PENSACOLA, Fla. -- The Navy announced Tuesday that it was canceling the remaining Blue Angels 2013 performances, citing "budget realities."
The cancellation of Blue Angels air shows extends past the federal fiscal year that ends in September and means the Nov. 1-2 Homecoming Show at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida has been scrapped, too.
"It's not just the fiscal year," said Navy Lt. Aaron Kakiel, spokesman for the Naval Air Forces Command in San Diego.
So the Navy is also canceling the Blues' four air shows in October in San Diego, San Francisco, Fort Worth and Jacksonville, Fla. More importantly for the November 2013 season finale in Pensacola, their practices in October are canceled as well.
Earlier, the Blue Angels canceled performances at 29 venues between April and September. The Blue Angels flew their final demonstration March 24 in Key West, Fla.
In a defense budget of more than $500 billion, eliminating the performances will produce relatively small savings: $28 million for the Blue Angels.
Even if Congress approves a new budget that reduces the impact of the mandatory spending cuts known as sequestration, the Navy isn't committed to immediately allowing the Blues back into action, Kakiel said.
For now, and probably through the end of 2013, the elite flight team's aviators will each be permitted 11 hours per month of flying time, the same amount being allowed to Naval air forces on deployed aircraft carriers.
Although the Blues will be allowed to fly to educational and public relations events, individually and together, they won't be practicing their aerobatic maneuvers, Kakiel said.
The team might be allowed to perform flyovers at some summer events, Kakiel said, but the final decision on those activities hasn't been made, and will come from the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, even if Congress approves a new budget, and the Navy relents on canceling the Blues season this summer, it could take a month of intensive training back at their winter practice home in El Centro, Calif., to get back up to speed, said Dennis Wisley, a retired rear admiral and former Blue Angels flight leader.
"They practice for 10 weeks in the winter, flying two or three times a day, to get ready for their air show season. If they don't practice for 30 days or so, they would have to return to El Centro to get ready again," Wisley said.
Kakiel agreed: "They're not going to be practicing for shows, so getting back to those levels of proficiency takes a long time."
By Rob Johnson
Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal
(Contributing: Ledyard King, Gannett Washington Bureau)