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The Boston Globe


James Carroll

Thunderbirds of prey

The military steps up its PR to stave off sequestration

This is Armed Forces Week, a time when the nation honors the military, and when many bases welcome the general public with open houses and receptions. The observances culminate on Saturday, Armed Forces Day. In the past, the celebrations featured the precision flying teams — the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds — but they are grounded this year due to sequestration cuts.

The thrill of attending an air show lies only partly in the wonder of the astonishing precision with which the nation’s best pilots fly their planes. Their high-speed passes, rolls, tight turns, and loops reliably generate oohs and aahs. When the screaming fighter jets draw into formations that have their wingtips almost touching, spectators close their eyes. That’s when the other part of the thrill kicks in — the palpable possibility that the pilots won’t pull the trick off this time. No one goes to an air show hoping for a crash, but the possibility of a crash is key to the excitement.

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