The Air Force Thunderbirds, the "loud and proud" precision team of F-16 fighter jets, have called off plans to appear in Chicago's Air & Water Show in August because of federal budget cuts, military officials said.
Because of the cuts, known as sequestration, the Air Force has cancelled air shows and fly-overs that are not related to combat readiness, Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth said Tuesday from the Pentagon.
The Thunderbirds, based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, had been lined up as one of the headliners of Chicago's lakefront show Aug. 17-18. But the flying team announced recently that its performances would stop April 1.
Mary May, spokeswoman for the city Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which stages the show, said Chicago had not received any official notification of the cancellation from the Thunderbirds.
"The show is going on as planned," May said, "and certainly if we have to make adjustments we are prepared to do so."
Asked about the prominent, decades-long presence of the Thunderbirds at the Air & Water show, May said, "Yes, they are exciting, but we also have some of America's top award-winning civilian pilots who also do amazing things."
According to Ashworth, there remains a chance that the team still could appear in Chicago – if budget disagreements are settled in Washington.
"The guidance we have received as a service, as best we can, is that any actions that we take (because of sequestration) should be reversible," Ashworth said. "If sequestration were to end soon, there is the possibility that the Thunderbirds could return to flight."
The Thunderbirds are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year and had more than 60 demonstrations planned at 38 locations between March and November. The team still plans to perform at an air show in Titusville, Fla., in late March, officials said.