The 15th annual Olympic Air Show takes to the skies Saturday, no small feat after sequestration grounded the Blue Angels and other military aerial demonstration teams.
The show, traditionally held on Father’s Day weekend, was delayed to accommodate the schedules of the civilian pilots who’ll be the main attractions this year.
“To quote an old cliché, the museum would rather make lemonade out of lemons than cancel,” said Teri Thorning, the show’s coordinator and the executive director of the Olympic Flight Museum. “We do this for our community. We had to make the best of what we had and what we could get.”
Sequestration has affected air shows nationwide. “About 40 shows just canceled altogether,” Thorning said.
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About 200 of the nation’s 300 air shows have been affected by the federal budget cuts, John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, told the Associated Press.
“If the military does not participate in air shows during the 2013 season, the economic impact will reach far beyond the show itself and deeply into the communities in which those shows are held,” Cudahy told The Huffington Post in March. He estimated that the aerial-demonstration teams such as the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds could account for 10 percent to 30 percent of a show’s attendance.
Given that, booking an air show without the military aircraft might be compared to pulling off Thanksgiving dinner after you realize you’ve forgotten to thaw the turkey: It’s a challenge that requires creativity and flexibility.
The Olympic Air Show has risen to the challenge. It will have just as many aerial acts as in a normal year, just with a different focus.
“Instead of an emphasis on current military jets and fast, loud new technology, we are emphasizing some of our classic golden-age aircraft,” Thorning said. The golden age of aircraft was 1929 to 1940, she said, and she expects to have about a dozen aircraft from that era on static display.
Taking to the skies will be many of the museum’s own heritage aircraft, including World War II-era planes, Vietnam War-era helicopters and the 1970s L-39 Albatross, plus several visiting planes, including a Stearman, a Yak-55 and a G-200.
Well-known Northwest pilot Bud Granley will be flying the Harvard (T-6) and the Yak-55.
The show, which typically draws about 10,000 people, also will feature a beer garden, children’s activities and a visit from the Budweiser Clydesdales, who’ll appear from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Thorning is hoping for just as many attendees as ever, despite the change in schedule and stars. And she sees one big advantage to postponing the show till August.
“The weather is a lot more dependable and nicer than in June,” she said.
Olympic Air Show
What: With sequestration preventing military teams from participating in air shows, the 15th annual Olympic Air Show will spotlight the museum’s collection of heritage aircraft.
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Olympic Flight Museum, 7637-A Old Highway 99, Olympia
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the gate; free for ages 6 and younger
More information: 360-705-3925, olympicairshow.com