The sequester cuts have grounded the Thunderbirds and other U.S. military flight demonstration teams, but it hasn’t stopped Air Force Academy graduates from getting their own ceremonial flyover.
With the help of donations, nine World War II era planes, flown by pilots from the Texas Flying Legends Museum and the National Museum of World War II Aviation, performed at the U.S. Air Force Class of 2013 commencement ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday.
The planes flown were two P-51D Mustangs, a B-25J bomber, a P-40K Warhawk, a FG-1D Corsair, FM-2P Wildcat, a TBM-3E Avenger, a P-47 Thunderbolt and a B-25 bomber, according to the Denver Post.
"Any chance we get to reach an audience, inspire young people and honor veterans and their families, we try to," Flying Legends president Tyson Voelkel told the newspaper.
Both museums raised around $100,000 in private and corporate donations to stage the performance, the Denver Post reports.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, who spoke to the more than 1,000 graduates, brought up the impact of the sequester cuts.
“Defense spending reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act followed by sequestration cuts are seriously undermining our efforts to maintain military readiness and modernize our aircraft fleets, satellites, weapon systems and other critical equipment,” he said. “Our responsibility is to ensure that this nation retains the world’s best Air Force with whatever level of resources is provided.”
Donley urged graduates not to get distracted as government leaders work to resolve budget issues, according to the Department of Defense’s website.