Sequestration All Over Again: Looming 2020 Budget Cuts May Ground Blue Angels, Other Military Demonstrations

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US Navy Blue Angels - AirshowStuff

Without action from Congress, the Navy could be forced to cancel the Blue Angels’ 2020 airshow season according to a report delivered to lawmakers by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. The report explores the would-be fallout of potential sequestration budget cuts that are set to go into effect in January of 2020.

Although the Blue Angels are probably the highest profile impact mentioned, the cuts would have strong impact throughout the military. The US Air Force’s contingency report has not been publicized, but it is almost certain that performances by the USAF Thunderbirds and other military demonstration teams would similarly be eliminated or severely reduced should this scenario play out.

While these cuts can be avoided as long as Congress acts prior to the January 2020 deadline, airshow fans know all too well that that can’t be counted on. In 2013, sequestration cuts did go into effect. The military teams were forced to abandon their scheduled plans and many airshows across the country struggled or canceled outright after losing the popular acts. It took years for a number of popular demonstrations to return, and some are still not back to pre-cut levels. It’s safe to say that the airshow industry as a whole is eager to see a second “lost season” prevented as soon as possible.

The timing of the cuts is also interesting, because the Blue Angels are expected to transition to flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet in the next few years. We already noted that their preliminary 2020 schedule ends about a month earlier than usual. The common assumption is that this would provide extra time to practice in the new aircraft before the 2021 season begins. There is no mention in the report of how the transition might be impacted should the cuts come to pass.

Canadian CF-18 Hornet Demo Team Announces Theme And Pilot For Limited 2019 Season

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2019 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Pilot Capt. Brian "Humza" Kilroy. Photo Credit: DND

The Royal Canadian Air Force has announced that the theme of the 2019 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team will be celebrating the history of the RCAF and highlighting Canada’s role in the NATO alliance. They also announced that the demonstration pilot for the 2019 airshow season will be Captain Brian “Humza” Kilroy from Alberta.

Each year’s theme is reflected in a special paint job applied to the primary demonstration aircraft; for 2019, the 70th anniversary of NATO and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion were popular suggestions for the theme. In recent years, themes have honored the 60th anniversary of NORAD, 150 years of Canadian confederation, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and the Battle of Britain.

There have been indications that the 2019 demo paint scheme will be limited to the aircraft’s tail fins. Recent designs have covered the entire aircraft but tail-only designs have been done before as well. Regardless of the limitations, we look forward to seeing what the talented paint techs can come up with!

Unfortunately, according to the schedule they released at ICAS the CF-18 team will not be performing anywhere outside of Canada in 2019. In fact, their schedule has been reduced by 40% compared to last year. A later report by the Toronto Star indicates that the reduced schedule is a conscious decision in light of significant personnel shortages in the RCAF, although the wisdom of reducing recruitment efforts during a shortage is questionable. The aircraft are also in poor shape; the team had many high-profile struggles to keep the primary aircraft flying during the 2018 show season and had to skip at least one entire weekend due to mechanical troubles. Less time on the road should reduce wear and tear on both man and machine.

Make sure you check the CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team’s 2019 schedule to see if they’ll be anywhere near you!

Here is the full press release from the RCAF:

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Captain Brian Kilroy as the pilot for the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team.

Captain Kilroy will wow audiences around Canada during the 2019 air show season, flying his specially-painted CF-18 Hornet commemorating the RCAF’s pathway to the stars and the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“The 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team theme is an opportunity for the Royal Canadian Air Force to reflect on the innovations and people that have contributed to our success while challenging ourselves and the next generation to help us shape the future of our organization for the better,” said Major-General Christian Drouin, Commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region. “I am very proud of what the RCAF has accomplished in the last 95 years and I can’t wait to see where the next few decades take us.”

Captain Brian Kilroy

Born in Grande Prairie, Alberta Captain Kilroy spent his childhood in Stony Plain, Alberta, and graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in chemical engineering.

The son of an RCMP officer, he was strongly supported to pursue his aviation dreams by his mother, who also shared his love for aviation. He attended numerous airshows throughout his childhood where he even had the chance to see the CF-18 Demonstration Team perform, which further inspired him to follow his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.

Captain Kilroy was a member the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in Stony Plain before deciding to pursue his dream of flying and joining the RCAF in 2006. He was later given the opportunity to attend the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program in Witchita Falls, Texas, where he went on to fulfill his lifelong dream of receiving his RCAF pilot’s wings.

Following flight training, he was posted to 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, as an operational fighter pilot in 2013. Captain Kilroy has actively served throughout Canada on the Hornet in support of NORAD and has deployed numerous times on international NATO and Canadian Armed Forces missions.

Today, Captain Kilroy is a four-ship lead and qualified Electronic Warfare Instructor with 410 Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron, using his combat and operational experience to train the next generation of CF-18 pilots.

“Being chosen to represent the Royal Canadian Air Force as the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Pilot is a true honour and I can’t wait to meet the rest of my team and start the season,” said Captain Kilroy. “To me this year’s theme really is a call to action and an amazing opportunity to inspire the next generation. We’re challenging ourselves and Canadians to keep pushing the limits of what is possible and to keep innovating. I hope that this summer our team will inspire Canadians to think and dream big while also demonstrating the impressive capabilities of their Air Force.”

2019 Theme

Based on the RCAF’s motto Sic Itur Ad Astra (Latin for “such is the pathway to the stars”), the 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team will celebrate the history of the RCAF, recognize the innovative and driven Canadians who have led the charge for change and stand ready to inspire a new generation to take up the flame of innovation and help shape the RCAF’s pathway to the stars.

The 2019 season also provides an opportunity to highlight the RCAF’s operational role within NATO, a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, as it celebrates its 70th anniversary.

2019 Schedule

The 2019 schedule will see the team visit 15 different show sites across Canada, as well as take part in the Parliament Hill flypast in Ottawa on Canada Day. The 2019 CF-18 Demonstration Team is looking forward to thrilling audiences across Canada this summer and demonstrating the RCAF’s capabilities to Canadians.