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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Skyfest 2013 canceled after sequester

USAF F-16 Thunderbirds take up the left observation position next to a Fairchild KC-135 tanker after receiving fuel over New Mexico in this file photo. Fairchild Air Force Base confirmed Monday that Skyfest will be canceled because of federal spending cuts. (File)

The return of Skyfest will have to wait.

Fairchild Air Force Base, which had planned to revive the popular air show this year to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Spokane’s Lilac Festival in May, confirmed Monday that Skyfest will be canceled because of federal spending cuts.

The announcement came shortly after the Air Force’s precision F-16 flying team, the Thunderbirds, canceled its planned Spokane visit along with the rest of its 2013 tour, citing lack of funding. The Air Force reportedly ordered all bases and installations to cancel air shows and open house events this year to help reduce spending to accommodate the mandatory, across-the-board cuts that took effect Friday.

“We certainly hope to be able to host an air show for our patriotic community in the future – down the road when fiscal times improve,” Col. Brian Newberry, commander of the Fairchild-based 92nd Air Refueling Wing, said in a prepared statement.

The free air show and community open house had been scheduled for May 18-19.

Skyfest typically draws crowds of 100,000 to the West Plains base to tour military aircraft, displays and aerial acrobatic shows. Last year’s show was canceled in part because of funding problems but also because base personnel were stretched thin.

Referred to as a sequester, the federal spending reductions took effect when Congress was unable to agree on a way to avoid $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts through 2021. The amount that must be cut from the current year’s budget is about $85 billion.

Newberry, who also serves as installation commander at Fairchild, said the base remains committed to its core mission.

“Even though we have to curtail spending,” he said, “we will continue to ensure that Team Fairchild provides worldwide aerial refueling for our combat forces.”