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Westmoreland County Air Show canceled

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 1:21 p.m.
Four Navy Blue Angels fly wing-to-wing during the Westmoreland County Air Show on Saturday, June 23, 2012, at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review

The 2013 Westmoreland County Air Show at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport has been canceled because the Air Force ended public aviation performances by the Thunderbirds precision jet team as a result of the federal sequester, the executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority announced Saturday.

“The air show has been canceled until further notice,” Gabe Monzo said on Saturday. “As of right now, with the Thunderbirds' cancellation, the show is canceled.”

The Thunderbirds flying unit had been scheduled to highlight the air show April 27-28 at the airport in Unity.

“The implementation of across-the-board cuts in federal spending has caused the curtailment of the Thunderbirds 2013 show schedule,” according to a statement on the Thunderbirds' website.

“Effective April 1, all of the team's performances have been canceled. The team still plans to perform at the Titusville, Fla., air show March 23-24,” it said.

On Friday, $85 billion in cuts for the fiscal year began after the White House and congressional leaders could not find common ground on funding government. The automatic, across-the-board cuts in the face of annual budget deficits are commonly referred to as the sequester.

The budget cuts will not affect Allegheny County's air show — Wings Over Pittsburgh — because it is produced every other year and will skip 2013, said Capt. Shawn M. Walleck, public affairs officer for the 911 Airlift Wing in Moon.

“Engaging with the public is a core Air Force mission,” Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, director of Air Force Public Affairs, states on the Air Force website, “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. The air force will re-evaluate 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 authority, which manages the airport, will let the public know if the status of the air show changes, Monzo said.

The Thunderbirds last appeared at the air show in 2001.

The authority resurrected the air show in 2011 after a 10-year hiatus when Spirit Airlines began offering commercial service at the facility near Latrobe.

Last year, the Navy's Blue Angels jet team performed, drawing an estimated 75,000 spectators during the two-day event in June.

“It's too bad,” Monzo said. “It's a sad situation something like this has to happen. We'll deal with it and move on.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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