Bloomberg Anywhere Remote Login Bloomberg Terminal Demo Request


Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.


Financial Products

Enterprise Products


Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000


Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Thunderbirds Fly as Air Force Resumes Flights After Cuts

Air Force Resumes Flying Planes Grounded Because of Budget Cuts
A United States Airforce F-16 Thunderbird pilot flies over the pan handle of Texas and pulls up to a boom for refueling from a KC-135R flying tanker. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

The U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds demonstration team is heading back into the air as the service resumes training flights that had been grounded by across-the-board budget cuts.

Combat aircraft from multiple commands are flying again after the service obligated $208 million for flight hours from a $1.8 billion shift in budget allocations authorized by Congress, the Air Force said today in a statement.

While the Thunderbirds are resuming training flights, the squadron won’t be restoring its canceled schedule of air shows for this year. It is acting “with the anticipation that it may be able to resume a limited number of aerial demonstrations next calendar year,” Major Darrick Lee, a spokesman for the Thunderbirds, said in a separate statement on its website.

The cancellation of pilot flying hours for training began soon after the automatic budget cuts, called sequestration, were triggered in March. The Pentagon is absorbing about $37 billion in cuts through Sept. 30, the end of this fiscal year.

“Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” General Mike Hostage, commander of the Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, said in the statement. “Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery.”

About 300 combat and training aircraft from multiple combat units will have flying hours restored, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sholtis, an Air Combat Command spokesman, said by e-mail.

Planes may be grounded again after Oct. 1, when the beginning of a new fiscal year will require an additional $52 billion in Defense Department cuts, unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

‘Band-Aid Solution’

Hostage said the shift in funds to finance flight hours means less money for investments aimed at modernizing the force.

“We are using investment dollars to pay current operational bills, and that approach is not without risk to our long-term effectiveness,” he said in the statement. “We can’t mortgage our future.”

Senator John McCain of Arizona, a senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, issued a statement praising the Air Force for “working creatively to keep our pilots in the skies, if only temporarily, but this decision is a Band-Aid solution that cannot be sustained.”

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.