Vectren Dayton Air Show organizers expect attendance will be impacted by the cancellation of the Navy’s elite Blue Angels team next week but announced two additional acts will be added to the line-up at the upcoming air show June 18-19.
“It’s going to impact us, I can’t tell you how much,” Roger Doctor, an air show spokesman, said Tuesday. “I know that I’ve never been to a city like Dayton when it comes to air shows. The people here, they just look at it and go, where else would I be? It’s Dayton and it’s an air show. We expect to have a real good crowd, but it will be down.”
The Blue Angels canceled in the aftermath of a tragic crash during a practice airshow June 2 in Smyrna, Tenn., that claimed the life of a Marine pilot who flew the No. 6 jet. A candlelight vigil was planned Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., the flight team’s home base, said Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, a Naval Air Forces spokeswoman in San Diego. A memorial service for the pilot, Capt. Jeff Kuss, who was married and the father of two children, was not yet scheduled.
The team has canceled shows in Tennessee and New York and has not set a date on when it will return to the air, Groeneveld said.
“The men and women of the team of the Navy’s Blue Angels are together somewhere between 250 to 300 days a year spending more time together then most any family would spend and you can imagine the heartache they’re all going through right now with the loss of a fellow pilot,” Doctor said.
“… It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce that they’re not going to be here because obviously they are just a huge hit with the Dayton populace, but we do have to go forward,” he said.
The air show announced Tuesday it will add Redline, a Cincinnati-based two-airplane precision flying act making its first appearance in Dayton, and a single Navy F/A-18 fighter jet demonstration.
The additions bring the total number of acts to about a dozen, officials said. Performers include the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and acrobatic performers Sean D. Tucker, Patty Wagstaff, Melissa Pemberton and the pyrotechnic act Tora! Tora! Tora!, a reenactment of the Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor in World War II.
For the first time, the Air Force is scheduled to send two F-35 Lightning II planes to Dayton to display on the tarmac, but the fifth-generation fighter jet will not fly a demonstration flight.
This is the second time in recent years a military jet team has had to cancel a performance in Dayton. In 2013, the Air Force Thunderbirds scrubbed the show season, including a Dayton appearance, because of sequestration, or automatic budget cuts. A civilian wing walker and her pilot were tragically killed that year, which saw attendance plummet to 23,000, based on air show estimates.
When the Air Force Thunderbirds performed last year, attendance was estimated at 40,000. That show was hit by torrential rain on one of the two days before the skies cleared. In 2014, when the Blue Angels last performed in Dayton, air show organizers estimated attendance at 65,000.
In a bizarre coincidence June 2, an Air Force Thunderbird F-16 fighter jet crashed in a field near Colorado Springs, Colo., after flying over an Air Force Academy graduation where President Barack Obama was the commencement speaker. The pilot ejected and was not injured.
The Thunderbirds canceled appearances in New Mexico and Rhode Island, but planned to resume flying practice demonstrations Tuesday, said Capt. Sara Harper, a team spokeswoman at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The pilot who was in the F-16 that crashed is currently in a non-flying status as an investigation continues, she said. “He’s still on our team,” she said. “At this point, we just don’t know when he will resume flying.”
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