Air Force Cancels Flyovers
By Fred Kester
Ever since an aircraft took off from the speedway at the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, flyovers have been an exhilarating part of the pregame festivities for major sporting events.
Military flyovers have been a tradition for Air Force Academy home football games for decades. Nearly every type of aircraft in the Air Force arsenal, from fighters to bombers to cargo aircraft, has flown over the Academy’s stadium on game day. That tradition will come to a (hopefully) temporary end this upcoming season as mandated budget cuts has forced the Department of Defense to cancel all public flyovers through the end of this fiscal year (the fiscal year ends Sept. 30). This includes the annual flyover by the Thunderbirds demonstration team at the Academy’s graduation ceremonies.
Air Force’s peregrine falcon mascot will still be part of the pregame festivities.
Flyovers don’t cost taxpayers any extra money as these missions are flown using allotted training hours. These are effective training missions as the pilots need to navigate their aircraft to a specific target at a specific time, to the second (something former Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil had troubling doing with a fax machine). The flyovers have also been a major recruiting tool for youngsters deciding on a military career.
But with training hours cut as well, the Air Force had no choice but to cancel public aerial support, according to Brig. Gen. Les Kodick, the director of Air Force public affairs.
"Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission and communicating and connecting with the public is more important today than ever before. However, faced with deep budget cuts, we have no choice but to stop public aviation support," said Brig. Gen. Kodlick in an Air Force release in early March. "The Air Force will reevaluate the program at the end of the fiscal year and look for ways to curtail the program without having to cancel aviation support altogether.”
The cancellation of the flyovers is a highly visible yet mostly cosmetic result of the federal budget dilemma. There are many other areas of the defense budget that could be trimmed to save much more than trimming pilot training hours, but these cuts would go relatively unnoticed. Hopefully there can be some sort of resolution to the budget crisis soon and the thrill of seeing jets buzz Falcon Stadium can return by October.