Fairchild facing turbulence as sequester hits airbase

Reports indicate Thunderbirds are grounded for the season

Author: Kylee Cruz, KXLY4 Reporter, kyleec@kxly.com
Published On: Mar 01 2013 04:44:01 PM PST   Updated On: Mar 01 2013 06:39:26 PM PST
USAF Thunderbirds on flight line

The ripple effect of the sequester will have a major impact on the region's largest employer, Fairchild Air Force Base, which may have to cut approximately 10-percent of their budget and force the Thunderbirds to cancel their appearance in Spokane.

The base has been preparing for the sequester for some time now; they have already curtailed spending in certain areas, but that doesn't mean the road ahead will be easy.

"We will feel it across the board," base spokesperson Ken Scholz said.

"The hardest part is making sure we keep our swords sharp," said 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander Col. Brian Newberry.

While some details are still being worked out, Fairchild says anything that's non-mission related has the chance to be curtailed.

"We will feel that in flying hours, maintenance, and then probably in some of our facility upgrades that we were expecting in the next year," Scholz said.

"As we go forward we are going to have to make sure we are being as smart as possible to account for every dollar," Newberry added.

Training for airmen will be reduced and civilians working on base may have to endure some drastic cuts. The 460 civilian workers at Fairchild could be furloughed for 22 days from April through September.

"That's the part where it becomes hard because all of our civilians are critical to our mission so if they aren't here five days a week, seven days a week, or whatever it may be, we are going to have to pedal faster," Newberry said.

The loss of those civilian employees is definitely going to be a challenge on base.

"We have to make sure we are staying as sharp as ever or we put soldiers on the ground at risk when we are not able to do our refueling mission as well as we do it," Newberry said.

The base will need to work hard and be innovative, Newberry said, in order to overcome the cuts and keep their commitment to aircraft refueling in tact.

"We will continue to fly, fight and win for this nation, we just need some help down the road for some political compromise," Newberry said.

Several news organizations are reporting that the Air Force Thunderbirds will not be making a Skyfest appearance this year as the team has reportedly been grounded due to the sequester.

The same applies for the Blue Angels, the Navy's aerial demonstration team, which has plans to cancel 28 performances between April and September, ABC News is reporting. This means the team's annual appearance at Seafair in Seattle would be scuttled.

Fairchild is looking at the possibly of canceling Skyfest altogether in a move to save money.