Cuts Ground Blue Angels, Thunderbirds; Ex-Air Force One Pilot Reacts

By: Matt Howerton Email
By: Matt Howerton Email
The elite flying teams of both the Navy and the Air Force are feeling the impact of automatic budget cuts.

Retired Brig. Gen. Jim Cross piloted Air Force One for six years.

GATESVILLE (March 04, 2013)- For over 50 years they used the skies as a canvas to paint awe-inspiring maneuvers and dazzling stunts for the public. But the fate of the Thunderbirds and Blue angels is now at stake.

As of last Friday, both flying teams were grounded until further notice.

Because of $85 billion in automatic sequester cuts, funding for the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds has been pushed aside.

Both flying teams have wowed audiences since the late 1940's. The majority of shows for both squadrons have been cancelled for 2013.

You might have seen either group performing at an air show or doing a flyover at a sporting event.

The Blue Angels were scheduled to fly over Dealey Plaza in honor of honor of Dallas' official commemoration next November of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

Having the fate of both flying teams in the air is unsettling for many fans, including 88-year-old Brigadier General Jim Cross, USAF (Ret.)

"I would love for my great grandchildren to be able to see the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels right now," Cross said.

"Unfortunately, they may never get to see them again."

Cross saw the Thunderbirds in 1947, six years before they were formally activated by the Air Force.

"I was thrilled the first time I saw them in Birmingham," Cross said.

"I figured, 'golly I wish I could fly one of those airplanes.'"

Though he never became a fighter pilot, Cross knows the skies pretty well.

He was a transport pilot in World War II, flew in Vietnam, and has earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as the Legion of Merit.

He was even the personal pilot for President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 60's, and flew Air Force One for six years.

He values dearly what the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels meant to America.

"They were a great show piece for the Air Force and the Navy," Cross said.

"All the public loved both flying teams and still do."

Both the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels will remain grounded until there's enough money for them to take to the skies again.

The Blue Angels alone cost the Navy 40 million dollars a year.

Still, Cross says money shouldn't matter when it comes to preserving two historical icons.

"The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds are both icons to America. I hope they bring them back…both teams," Cross said.

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