Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Privatizing the Blue Angels suggested


PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - Tuesday, April 9, the Navy announced that the entire 2013 Blue Angels air show season had been canceled due to federal military budget cuts. The same day, the unit's commanding officer spoke to the media aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola. 

"We understand it's an important balance, so we don't want to jeopardize any of the resources our deploying forces have," said Commander Tom Frosch. "I've been over there, and you don't want to find out you don't have the equipment you had because of an air show so to speak.  But it's a balance; and we just have to trust our leadership will figure out that balance."

Santa Rosa Island Authority Director Buck Lee said the cuts will kill business on Pensacola Beach.

"If they would just send one less jet airplane to some third world country, we could pay for the air shows around the United States," Lee said.

Lee has his own idea: privatize the beach show and fund it with contributions from local businesses and corporate sponsors.

He said the problem is the price tag.

"I checked to see what it would take," Lee said.  "It would take 15 practices, and then three days of an air show, and you're looking at about $1.2 million to put it on. I could probably go out and find some major sponsors and bring in $200,000, it's the other $1 million that's the trick."

FOX10 News brought Lee's idea to 'Boss' Frosch.

"I know that has been discussed, but unfortunately that's out of my lane," Frosch said.  "It would require a lot more than just one air show. We'd have to maintain proficiency all the way up until that air show. So even if that were the case, we wouldn't have enough proficiency to do something like that.  We can't just turn the air shows on or off; it's something that we need to maintain throughout the year,

The Blues will continue to fly from NAS-P, but not near enough to get ready for shows.

"It's considerably different," Frosch said.  "We're talking 11 hours a month maximum, and it requires a lot more. We normally fly 30 to 40. So to put on a safe demonstration, you need a lot more than 11 hours."

Those 11 hours are all the Blues will get each month.  You can catch them flying around in pairs, just don't expect the normal aerial acrobatics.

The shows may be canceled for 2013, but the commander did leave us with some optimistic words for the future.

"Our hope is that we will get turned on for the 2014 season, and get back up to speed and have a great season next year," Frosch said.

Lee said according to a study done last year by the University of West Florida, the economic impact of the Pensacola Beach show exceeds $2 million for the area.

The Blues said they'll still maintain their high level of community outreach, and will sign autographs Wednesdays at the National Naval Aviaton Museum on-base.

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