Budget cuts could ground military planes from Thunder air show
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The budget cuts looming in Washington could change the planes you see flying at Thunder Over Louisville this year.
You may be looking to a sky full of civilian acts this year.
Military planes could be grounded because of the sequestration, which is a "fancy pants" term for forced federal budget cuts -- currently argued in Washington.
Crowds watched intently as a Harrier jet hovered over the Ohio River, and as the B-2 Stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress bomber took passes over downtown Louisville last year.
But the future for military planes flying in Thunder Over Louisville 2013 could be turned upside down with the budget bickering in Washington.
"We saw this coming last July, and we started regrouping to go, 'We got a potential problem here'," said Thunder Over Louisville producer Wayne Hettinger.
Alternate plans have been long in the works.
"We've got more civilian air acts coming in already this year than normally. And in talking with them, some of them fly two and three different show acts, so it's like we're preparing to bring them in early, come back in and make them do another act later on."
Hettinger and air "boss" Mike Riordan say you'll see a full air show, regardless of any military participation.
The military planes are often on a last-minute schedule anyway -- whether it's because of current missions or budget cuts.
"You'll see large precision groups like Lima Lima, Trojan Horsemen, Team Dynamics. You'll also see individual aircraft performers who have the smaller aircraft who do the highly aerobatic routines," Riordan said.
Tuesday marked 53 days until Thunder, so a lot still can happen.
But air show planes might be low on a list of worries, should the federal budget cuts stretch into weeks.
The White House warns of millions of dollars potentially lost to public schools and disabled kids in Kentucky and Indiana. The cuts could affect Head Start programs with 2,200 fewer kids, cause furloughs of 22,000 civilian defense department workers in places like Fort Knox, and a loss of $433,000 in extra federal aid to local law enforcement.
Back in Wayne Hettinger's world, decorative jars with labels like "Magic" and "Miracles" sit above his desk.
He's not alone hoping lawmakers can use them, too.
The automatic budget cuts were set to take effect March 1 if lawmakers reach no agreement.
The cuts have already forced cancellation of a U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance in Indianapolis in June and put into doubt a Blue Angels performance in Evansville July 4.
This year's Thunder Over Louisville show did not include the Blue Angels.
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