Federal budget cuts would end flyovers

We've oohed and aahed at the vroom of military jets flying over sporting events. That will be silenced if the federal budget cuts of sequestration are fully implemented.

A B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flew over the Rose Bowl last month and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July. Flyovers are part of the pre-race ritual at many NASCAR races. Precision squadrons such as the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels have been fixtures at air shows. They fly in their six-jet delta formation over sporting events, too.

But with $85 billion in federal budget cuts set to take effect Friday if no solution is found in Congress (the cuts would total $1.2 trillion over 10 years), such flyovers will be grounded, and there could be cuts to service academy athletics departments.

A low cloud ceiling prevented the Thunderbirds from making their scheduled flyover Sunday at the Daytona 500. Next on their schedule is a flyover March 10 for a NASCAR event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"The Thunderbirds are expected to stand down effective April 1. (Las Vegas) is pretty much going to be, I think, the last flyover you'll see for a while from us," Wendy Varhegyi, chief of the engagement division for Air Force public affairs, told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday.

She said the curtailment would be at least through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30), "And then at that point, we'll reevaluate. ... Sequestration is a 10-year problem, so we just don't know."

According to Varhegyi, the Air Force conducts about 1,000 flyovers a year at sports venues and other events. They are made in conjunction with pre-allotted training hours for pilots.

"It's no additional cost to the government for support of any public events," she said. "Typically, if you see a unit fly over a football game, that is 90 seconds out of a several hour training sorte that they're flying.''

Under sequestration, such training hours would be curtailed.


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