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Federal budget battle might cancel Thunderbirds at CFD

Mar 6, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The Air Force Thunderbirds might not make their traditional appearance at Cheyenne Frontier Days this year because the team has been grounded by the budget battle in Washington.

Thunderbirds spokesman Maj. Darrick Lee said Tuesday that the team canceled about 58 appearances After April 1to save money amid mandatory spending cuts.

Lee says the cancellations will allow the Air Force to shift more flying time and resources into combat training. It wasn't immediately clear how much money the move would save.

The Thunderbirds were scheduled to appear at Frontier Days on July 24. They also canceled their traditional flyover and air show at the Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado in May.

This is the Thunderbirds' 60th anniversary year.

The U.S. Air Force announced last week that because of the federal sequester -- automatic cuts of $85 billion from this year's federal budget -- all Thunderbirds performances after April 1 are canceled.

Dov Schwartz, a spokesman for the Department of the Army in Washington said in an e-mail the Golden Knights sky-diving team also "is very much impacted."

According to an email from Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Department of the Air Force in Washington, D.C., "all aerial demonstrations, including flyovers, jump team demonstrations and participation in civilian air shows and military open houses will cease as of 1 April."

She attributed that to "per DOD (Department of Defense) direction" as a result of the looming cuts known as the sequester.

Stefanek added that "military musical and ceremonial units will not be permitted to travel beyond the local area immediately surrounding their respective duty stations."

The grounding of the Air Force Thunderbirds announced last week was the first indication of how sequester-driven funding cuts would affect civilian presentations. Several air shows around the county already have been canceled.

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