Air Force trims aerial demo teams

Tight budgets will ground some Air Force aircraft that traditionally appear in smaller air shows, but the organizer of Thunder Over the Valley in Santa Maria retains high hopes of landing an F-22 demonstration team and other military aircraft in 2012.

The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has announced a reduction of single-ship demonstration teams in 2012.

“We face significant fiscal constraints and are making tough decisions about the best ways to continue providing combat airpower to warfighting commanders, which is what we do as the Air Force’s primary force provider,” ACC said in a statement released Dec. 1.

Officials decided that the Air Force will sponsor one single-ship demonstration team for the 2012 air show season, scaling back from the six teams they historically have sponsored.  Those demo teams include the A-10 East & West, F-16 East & West, F-15E and F-22.

The A-10 West Demonstration Team performed as a recently as August at Thunder over the Valley, organized by the Santa Maria Museum of Flight.  “For the 2012 season, we’re sponsoring our F-22 demonstration team to perform at up to 20 shows,” the statement said.  Additionally, the Thunderbirds are set to complete a full season next year, with the schedule recently announced at the International Council of Air Shows conference in Nevada.

“Reducing the number of single-ship demonstration teams will allow us to reallocate more than 900 sorties to our wings so they can maximize their flying hours for combat readiness training, offsetting some of the reduction we’ve seen in flying hours,” ACC officials said. “Most importantly, reallocating those sorties will provide an increase in more than 25 combat-ready fighter pilots — that’s a very good thing for our nation and wise stewardship of our limited resources.”

Mike Geddry Sr., president of the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, recently returned from the International Council of Air Shows convention and said he has high hopes of landing the F-22 demonstration team for the 2012 show. 

The Santa Maria airport’s long runway and the past support for the Air Force makes Thunder over the Valley a viable candidate for the F-22 appearance, Geddry said.  “I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch …,” he said, adding that confirmation of the F-22 team appearance for 2012 could come by late January or early February.

Additionally, Geddry hopes to secure a heritage flight, which pairs a vintage warbird with a modern-day Air Force aircraft. “We’re working on every angle, but the Air Force is really, really hurting right now,” Geddry said.

The 2012 show is set for Aug. 25 and 26 at the Santa Maria Public Airport and is scheduled to get a Marine Corps Osprey demonstration team, he said.  Geddry said he’s also working to line up an appearance by Canada’s jump team.

By Janene Scully/Associate Editor Santa Maria Times | Posted: Saturday, December 10, 2011 1:00 am

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