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Air shows, tourism big losers as budget cuts ground Blue Angels, other military stunt flyers

SAVANNAH, Georgia – Deep budget cuts in Washington mean military flight teams will likely be no-shows at air shows across the U.S. starting this spring, leaving dozens of host cities bracing for thinner crowds and lost tourism dollars.

When $85 billion in automatic cuts kicked in March 1, the Air Force cancelled shows at bases from Florida to Arizona and grounded its formation-flying pilots, the Thunderbirds. The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team also cancelled performances. The Navy’s famous Blue Angels said only that military commanders intend to cancel their April shows, though nothing is officially cancelled yet.

John Cudahy of the International Council of Air Shows says at least 150 U.S. air shows each year count on military performers. Without them, he estimates up to a third of the shows might cancel altogether.

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