KEY WEST, Fla. (CBSMiami) – The Blue Angels, the Navy's elite fighter jet demonstration unit, are performing this weekend in Key West in what may be their final public exhibition at least through Sept. 30, the end of the Navy's fiscal year.
The six pilots are executing intricate and close-quarters maneuvers Saturday and Sunday above the Florida Keys at the Southernmost Air Spectacular, a free air show being staged at Naval Air Station Key West.
Sequestration motivated a March 5 directive signed by Under Secretary Robert Hale of the Department of Defense prohibiting "all aerial demonstrations in civilian air shows and military open houses" from April 1 through the remainder of the DOD's fiscal year.
The Blue Angels' website schedule shows some air performances already canceled. Even though Congress has agreed on a plan to finance the government for the rest of the fiscal year, it is unclear whether the Angels shows will continue, Navy officials said.
Blue Angels' flight leader, Commander Tom Frosch, says he hopes the Angels' presence can continue at other scheduled shows, because it plays a critical role in Naval recruiting.
"Losing the Blue Angels would be a tremendous loss to our recruiting effort," said Frosch. "Our (Blue Angels) mission is to compliment the recruiting effort, take the Navy to your backyard in many towns that are not exposed to the military.
"We want to expose young men and women and inspire them into potential future careers in the Navy/Marine Corp," he said.
The air show also features other highlights including demonstrations by the Fighter Composite Squadron VFC-111 "Sun Downers" and the Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team. Also scheduled are civilian aerobatic exhibitions including wing-walkers, sailplane acrobatics, a helicopter that flies upside-down and a tribute to late Key West aerobatic pilot Fred Cabanas.
Gates are to open at 9 a.m. Sunday. The show is to begin at 10 a.m. and the Blue Angels are to fly at 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Southernmost Air Spectacular site.
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