Beaufort Air Show canceled

cconley@islandpacket.comMarch 21, 2013 

In this file photo, the Blue Angels perform a stunt for the crowd at the 2009 Beaufort Air Show at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

FILE/THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

For the second time in seven years, the Beaufort Air Show has been canceled.

This time, the cause was federal budget cuts, not a scheduling conflict for the Blue Angels.

Marine Corps Air Station officials announced Thursday that the biennial event has been called off due to possible impacts from the forced federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

"Headquarters Marine Corps made the decision to cancel the air show in order to minimize the fiscal impact on vital programs, operational readiness and mission capabilities possibly affected by sequestration," base officials said in a news release.

No future air show dates have been set.

The air show typically draws more than 100,000 people to Beaufort for the two-day event, which features civilian stunt pilots, historical aircraft and other performances. The last event, in 2011, attracted 102,000 people, according to military officials.

The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team, which perform acrobatic and stunt maneuvers in F/A-18 Hornet jets, is usually a major draw.

Earlier this month, a spokeswoman for the Blue Angels said she expected the elite squadron would cancel its appearance at the show due to the $85 billion in forced budget cuts.

Although the show is free to attend, its costs are offset by sponsorships and premium ticket sales. Air show coordinator Ivey Liipfert said a ticket processing company will begin offering refunds Thursday afternoon.

Col. John Payne, chairman of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's Military Enhancement Committee -- a group launched to protect Beaufort County's three military installations -- said he isn't shocked the air show was canceled.

"A surprise? No, I don't think so," he said Thursday. "They said they were going to cut all non-essential items from the military budget, and this is not absolutely combat essential."

Payne believes the action might serve as a reminder that the federal budget cuts, especially those targeting the military, will have an impact throughout the county.

"I think it does," he said. "It's brought home."

The air show was last canceled in 2006 when the Blue Angels did not include the show in its annual schedule. The show was held in 2007 and has proceeded every two years since then.

Attempts to reach a base spokesman for additional comment on the action were not immediately successful Thursday.

Check back with The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet and follow Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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