The Blue Angels got their wings back – after being grounded for much of the last year due to forced spending cuts, the U.S. Navy’s premier flying squad are returning to the sky.
The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstrative Squadron – the official name of the elite fleet of blue and gold airplanes – will start its 2014 airshow season with a performance at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California, on March 15.
The last time the Blue Angels took to the sky for an airshow was April of last year.
The squad is scheduled to do 68 performances between Saturday and November 8, in 35 locations across the U.S., according to CNN.
In April of 2013, the U.S. Air Force grounded about a third of its active-duty force of combat planes and the U.S. Navy cancelled the rest of the Blue Angels’ aerobatic team’s season because of automatic federal budget cuts.
To compensate for the cuts, the branch focused its budget and resources on units supporting major missions, like the war in Afghanistan, while other units stand down on a rotating basis.
The Air Force’s budget for flying hours was reduced by $591 million for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year.
As news trickled out that the Navy had cancelled the remainder of Blue Angels’ season, business owners and residents of the coastal enclave where the team is based expressed resignation and disappointment.
The cancellation, part of the massive budget sequester spending reductions that forced the military to slash $41 billion from its budget, saved an estimated $28 million, NBC San Diego reported.
‘I just think it’s sad that there are political games being played. I doubt the Blue Angels are even half of 1 percent of the entire Navy budget,’ said Lloyd Proctor, co-owner of Blue Angel Hot Tubs in Pensacola. Proctor and his wife named their business after the team 10 years ago.