This past weekend Titusville, Florida played host to the 36th annual Tico Warbird Air Show, and this year’s events proved to be the biggest in the Valiant Air Command’s history with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds headlining the weekend’s performances. Their visit to Florida’s Space Coast marked the end of the team’s very short 2013 air show season, and brought record crowds to the small city which neighbors NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In a worst-case scenario, this may have been the final performance ever for the team that has represented the pride and professionalism of the U.S. Air Force since 1953. As of April 1, all military aerial demonstration performances are cancelled as a result of sequestration measures, which refers to budget cuts to specific areas of federal spending. A permanent cancellation of the team is, however, very unlikely.
The following statement was issued by the team March 1 in response to the official cancellation of their 2013 season:
– This decision enables Air Combat Command (ACC) to reallocate flying hours to combat readiness training, which will enable more sorties for combat readiness and deployment commitments, ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime air defense.
“Sequestration temporarily limits our ability to travel, but it doesn’t stop us from reaching out within our community to tell the Air Force story,” said Lieutenant Col. Greg Moseley, U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron commander/leader. “We still have an obligation to educate people about our great Air Force and the incredible things our Airmen do. We’ve always had a robust community relations effort; until this issue is resolved, we’ll continue to engage the public as best we can. Flying is an important part of the Thunderbirds mission, but it’s not everything.”
Any appearance by the USAF Thunderbirds always draws big crowds, which in turn draws big bucks to the local economy. Titusville, which is located next door to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, was hit particularly hard by the retirement of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program in 2011. Many of the talents behind NASA’s space shuttle program lived in the small city, and after the STS program ended most were laid off, which in turn forced many to move in order to take advantage of other opportunities (many of them remain unemployed, and others moved anyway due to foreclosures, divorces, etc). Annual events like the Tico Air Show give the city a much needed economic boost.
By all accounts the Valiant Air Command’s 2013 Tico Air Show was a great success, with record crowds showing up despite some ugly weather which cancelled several performances Sunday. Severe storms packed with lightning, hail, and strong winds were expected later in the afternoon, so the Thunderbird flew a “low-show” a couple hours earlier than was originally scheduled in order to beat the storm. The decision to move their final performance up paid off, as a powerful storm cell with gusts over 80 mph hit the air show’s location head-on 15 minutes after the team finished flying their routine, causing minor property damage and flipping at least one aircraft over. The National Weather Service has not confirmed a tornado touch down on the air show property (Space Coast Regional Airport), but eyewitness accounts – as well as several news reports – beg to differ. Investigators will be on-site today to try and confirm whether or not a small tornado did in fact touch down.
For more information about the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum and their annual Tico Warbird Air Show, please visit their website at www.vacwarbirds.org. The volunteers with the VAC work for no pay to save, restore, and publicly display old vintage military aircraft in an effort to educate the public of the significant history in which these aircraft and their crews were a part of. All proceeds from the annual air show benefits the Valiant Air Command Museum Fund and Aviation Scholarship Programs.
(All images courtesy of Mike Killian for Zero-G News)
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