US airshows brace for likely government shutdown

UPDATE: This story is now outdated. Due to a temporary funding agreement, passed just a few hours before the deadline, a US government shutdown has been avoided at least until mid-November, after the end of the US airshow season. It remains a possibility that a shutdown could occur at a later date, affecting preparations for 2024.

Airshows are facing a sudden withdrawal of all US military support as soon as tomorrow, if a US government shutdown goes ahead.

Having already failed to agree a long-term funding strategy, should the Senate, House of Representitives and White House be unable to agree on a stopgap measure to continue fuding the US government by the end of Saturday 30th September, an immediate shutdown will be triggered.

Among many other, more serious, impacts, the shutdown will require all non-essential US military aircraft to return to their bases and cease their flying activities. This would mean that, from Sunday onwards, there would be no US military participation at airshows at least until the shutdown has ended; aircraft already deployed to shows would return to their bases on Sunday morning and military demonstration teams would be stood down temporarily. Military-run and military-hosted events during that period would not go ahead.

Some FAA functions could also be impacted, which could prevent airshows from acquiring waivers and documentation, if they have not already done so.

There is still a slim chance that a shutdown could be averted, but should it go ahead, it is difficult to predict whether it would last hours, days, weeks or longer. After the shutdown ends, it would likely take several more days for military display teams to regain operational readiness and resume airshow appearances.

Few airshows have so far addressed the risk of a shutdown in public, and most of those that have commented are insisting that their shows will go ahead, albeit probably without military support. Wings Over Houston, scheduled for the 14th-15th of October, have announced that, should the USAF Thunderbirds fail to turn up to this year’s show, they will issue all attendees with tickets for 2024’s event. San Francisco Fleet Week, on the 6th-8th October, has insisted the event will not be cancelled in the event of a shutdown, and promised to keep fans “posted” about the status of the Blue Angels’ participation.

In response to questions on Facebook, the California International Airshow in Salinas, scheduled for the 7th-8th October, said: “the U.S. military has told us they will still be here.” Until the shutdown formally begins, this will, officially, remain the plan. However, the show’s comments implied that the US military would continue to participate even if a shutdown goes ahead, which is not the case. Nonetheless, the airshow has said it can go ahead with only the participation of Canadian and civilian performers.

The impact of the possible shutdown will likely become clearer over the coming days, should it come into effect.