Ocean City air show to go on without Blue Angels, Thunderbirds

The Navy's famed Blue Angels aerial demonstration squad has canceled the rest of its 2013 performances, including dates this summer in Ocean City, in San Diego, Navy officials announced earlier this week.

"This is one of many steps the Navy is taking to ensure resources are in place to support forces operating forward now and those training to relieve them," the Navy said in an official statement.

The move was caused by the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, officials said. In March, the Air Force announced it would ground its Thunderbirds jet demonstration team beginning April 1.

That means this year's OC Air Show, scheduled for June 8-9, will not have any military jets soaring above the Atlantic off the coast of Ocean City, but the show will go on.

OC Air Show organizers said the moves were disappointing but ultimately would not hurt the show in terms of entertainment value or attendance.

"We’ll have an all-star, almost all-civilian lineup of aircraft. We’ll put together and bring in the best civilian acts in the country," said Bryan Lilley, president of the OC Air Show, adding that organizers created a similar show two years ago, when they did not fly any jets.

"In 2011, we didn’t have a jet team and it was our second-best year," Lilley said.

However, Lilley said that the military groundings have hurt the industry overall with many air shows facing cancellation. But for Ocean City, even that may offer a silver lining.

"There’s no air show left [in the region], so you have to go to Ocean City," Lilley explained. "Andrews is gone, Dover is gone, the Blues aren’t flying in Annapolis. So there aren’t any air shows left except for Ocean City."

In addition to the OC Air Show, Lilley's company also produces the Lauderdale Air Show later this month in South Florida. He said that show has been successful using only civilian aircraft for the past three years and that he would seek a similar lineup for Ocean City.

Still, Lilley said he understands that some OC Air Show fans may be disappointed,

"There’s that patriotic salute to the military and they want to show their support," he said. "It’s disappointing, but we’re going to do the best show possible."

Lilley also notes that because of its location, Ocean City still offers the best draw.

"When you look at a waterfront airshow, it’s like launching fireworks over the ocean, it makes one of the best reasons to go to the beach for a weekend."

Tribune Newspapers contributed to this report.

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