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Brig. Gen. Matthew Malloy, commander of 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, reported that there are zero incidents with the F-22 since they arrived in Japan in July. A dozen F-22 had been deployed in Okinawa days, after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lighten the restrictions on the aircraft. But so far, the first overseas mission of the F-22 is going on without a glitch and no pilots complained of flying the aircraft.
Flying restrictions on the F-22 aircraft were placed after pilots complained of dizziness and getting disoriented. Two pilots from Virginia National Air Guard had gone on television to expose the difficulty of flying the aircraft. They complained of extreme disorientation while on the air and coughing and dizziness after flying. A dozen incidents were also reported where pilots experience similar symptoms and a fatal crash in 2010 caused the F-22 to be grounded. However, the crash was ruled due to pilot error.
The F-22 fleet got the green light to fly again after the U.S. Air Force identified the main problem as the faulty valve in its flight vest. Measures are being taken to ensure pilot safety and it will be completed at the end of the year. Meanwhile, pilots in Japan do not use flight vests as they fly under altitude ceilings. They also fly close to emergency landing areas.
Malloy said in an interview with Associated Press that the F-22 planes are delivering safely.”The Air Force has been aggressively looking at this very complex issue,” Molloy said. “I’m glad that we are getting back on the road.” Malloy is also an F-22 pilot.
The F-22 is a stealth airplane that can evade radar and fly at supersonic speed without using after-burners. The aircraft’s capabilities are currently unmatched by other nations.
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News source: www.cbsnews.com
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Last May 2, 2012, the company’s F-22 Raptor Program Manager Jeff Babione handed over a ceremonial key for the last Raptor to the US Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz who then handed it over to pilot Lt Col Paul “Max” Moga, who then passed it onto his crew chief, Staff Sgt Damon Crawford. USAF dignitaries attended the event including Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Bob Stevens, and Generals Mike Hostage, Edward Rice and Gary North.
“The delivery represents an important element in our overall modernisation effort,” Schwartz says. “We continue to focus on ensuring that these capabilities will help shape the future security environment, not just respond to them.”
“If someone had told me in 2004, when I first started flying the Raptor, that I would have the honor of flying the last production jet out of Marietta, I’d have never believed them,” says Moga, commander of 525th FS, who will fly the jet to Alaska. 3rd Wg Cdr Col Dirk “Stuff” Smith will fly tail 4193 Elemendorf-Richardson.
“The F-22 weapon system is a testament to this country’s industrial strength, technological power and aviation ingenuity. Any line worker, engineer or supervisor that was involved in building the Raptor should feel an immense amount of pride in what they have accomplished. It is far and away the most lethal fighter aircraft ever built – a fact that will unfortunately, but most certainly, be proven in combat some day,” Moga added. “Rest assured…the F-22 has and will save lives.” Moga praises those who built the powerful twin-engined stealth fighter.
The F-22 Raptor aircraft served as an air superiority fighter against the Soviet Air Force. This aircraft is capable of ground attack, electronic warfare and signals intelligence roles. F-22 Raptor is a combination of stealth, maneuverability, integrated avionics and improved supportability. It performs both air-to- air and air-to-ground missions, making it an essential property to USAF.
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One of the problems with the Air Force’s drone fleet? There aren’t enough humans to operate the flying robots. And it’s contributing to a surprising Air Force decision to buy fewer drones — even as its own budget plan calls for the robots to get much busier.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced weeks ago that the armed, unmanned Predators and Reapers will fly more often in the coming few years, going up to 65 combat air patrols, or CAPs — teams of up to four flying robots — “with a surge capacity of 85.” That’s up from 61 today. But the Air Force’s budget figures, released on Monday, show that the flyboys will slow down their drone purchases, rather than increase them.
Under last year’s defense budget, the Air Force bought 48 Reapers, the bigger, faster, more lethal descendant of the Predator. (The Air Force stopped buying Predators in 2010.) In the proposed budget, the Air Force wants to buy half as many — 24 armed, spying drones. And its budget chief, Maj. Gen. Edward Bolton Jr., was unsure when the service will start buying the next-generation, jet-powered, stealthy Avenger drone in earnest.
There are a couple reasons for the shift. One is that there aren’t enough airmen who know how to remotely pilot the things. Another is that the Air Force says it can do more stuff with fewer drones. And of course, there’s the budget crunch.
“It turned out, when the [Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council] established this past year the requirement of 65 CAPs, we determined we could meet that with this [reduced] production rate,” Bolton told Danger Room during a Monday afternoon briefing.
After the briefing, Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick, the Air Force’s public-affairs chief, told Danger Room that the reduced Reaper purchase has to do with flesh-and-blood concerns — namely a lack of airmen trained to fly the drones and analyze the data the robots collect.
Well, sort of, clarifies Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman. “Manning was a consideration in reducing the MQ-9 Reaper purchases for [the next fiscal year], but not the only consideration,” Cassidy emails Danger Room. “The MQ-9 crew production rate and the attrition rate of the [Predator] allowed the reduction of MQ-9 purchases [next year] without impact to the Air Force ramp-up to 65 CAPs.”
But the Air Force has acknowledged it’s got a people problem with its unpeopled planes. “Our No. 1 manning problem in the Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, the vice chief of staff, recently told the Los Angeles Times.
In recent years, the Air Force relaxed its restrictions on who can fly its drones, in order to make up the shortfall; there are pilots now flying Reapers who have never grabbed the throttle of a traditional aircraft. But it hasn’t been enough. Contractors are brought in to the drone bases to remotely pilot the Predators and Reapers, as well as to help analyze the endless hours of full-motion video they collect. Thousands of airmen have been shifted into new jobs, in order to better scour all the video.
Absent a big crash program to train up new drone experts– or switch to the Army’s preferred method of using pasty, video-gaming teenagers to pilot their robot planes — the manpower problem is likely to get worse. In the next few years, the sensor and video packages carried by Air Force drones are going to get more sophisticated, like when the panopticon Gorgon Stare spy suite comes online. And the Air Force will cut 9,900 personnel over the next year, although it’s unclear what specialties the cashiered airmen will have performed.
When top Pentagon officials like former Defense Secretary Bob Gates browbeat the Air Force into accepting 65 unmanned CAPs, top service officials complained that there was no formal “requirement” for the drones — no way of knowing when it had satisfied the other services’ need for robotic eyes in the sky. Even drone-backers at the top of the Air Force thought all those patrols were overkill. So it’s not surprising that they chose to slow the rate of drone buys, when budgets got tight.
Instead, the Air Force’s priority future upgrades and purchases are all in manned planes. Upgrading the software on the F-22 Raptor, even as it’s got big problems with its oxygen systems. Enhancing the radar on F-15s. Extending the service life of F-16s. Buying 19 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even as they develop 13 expensive new flaws. An arguable exception is that the service’s desired next-generation long range bomber won’t always be piloted by a human being; it’s “optionally manned,” as the Air Force calls it.
But a recent congressional study obtained by Danger Room explains the Air Force’s preference for manned planes. About 40 percent of the air fleet is robotic. Yet over 90 percent of the Air Force’s procurement money is spent on planes with a human in the cockpit. Of course, part of the allure of drones is that they are cheap. And obviously, drones are the weapon of choice for the Obama administration’s Shadow Wars against terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Asked by Danger Room, Bolton said that the new budget figures “should not” be interpreted as a sign that the Air Force prefers its manned planes.
“This budget really is a manifestation of the strategy that was laid out by Secretary Panetta on the 26th of January,” Bolton said. “And so our real challenge within this budget was to first determine how we could build a budget that could implement that strategy, and then secondly, how could we do that within the necessary physical constraints as based upon the guidance of the Budget Control Act passed to us by [the White House].”
Except Panetta was clear that day that the Air Force would “provide unmanned capabilities through their operators as well” — and would increase its Predator and Reaper flights. The robots are still waiting for the humans to catch up.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Last Monday, the U.S. Air Force declared it has not found a “smoking gun” to explain oxygen issues that grounded Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-22 fighter jet for four months last year but has implemented steps to minimize problems.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told Reuters that a subpanel was due to brief the Air Force’s Science Advisory Board this week about recurring problems with the system that supplies oxygen to pilots who fly the radar-evading F-22 warplane, but no single mechanical cause had been found.
He said he expected the advisory board to finalize its report on the issue by the end of January or early February.
The Air Force grounded its fleet of F-22 Raptor fighter jets in May 2011 but allowed flights to resume in September after concluding the planes were safe to fly.
Schwartz said the service installed new equipment to monitor the output from the oxygen producing system on board, as well as the level of oxygen in the blood of the pilots, but would continue to collect data.
“We haven’t found a single mechanical deficiency that addresses some of the symptoms that we’ve seen,” he said in an interview at his Pentagon office. “We’ve taken a range of both engineering and physiological actions to minimize the consequences of what we’ve seen, and continue to collect data so we can nail this down once and for all.”
“The stand-down provides Air Force officials the opportunity to investigate the reports and ensure crews are able to safely accomplish their missions,” the Air Force said in a statement.
The Raptor is the premier U.S. fighter and features cutting-edge shapes, materials and propulsion systems designed to make it appear as small as a swallow on enemy radar screens.
Lockheed rolled the last F-22 fighter out of its Marietta, Georgia facility last month, but the Air Force is preserving the hardware used to build the jet, which would allow it to restart production for about $200 million.
Schwartz said he considered it unlikely that the F22 plane’s production would ever be restarted. “I wouldn’t say never, but I think it very unlikely,” he said.
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After being temporarily grounded for days, Virginia-based F-22 Raptors returned to the air last Tuesday, Oct. 25.
Last Thursday, the commander of the 1st Fighter Wing ordered the stand-down after a pilot experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. Hypoxia occurs when the body does not receive enough oxygen.
Last week’s order came just a month after the nation’s entire fleet of F-22s was allowed back into the air. The planes, which cost $143 million each, were pulled from service in May because of hypoxia issues reported by at least a dozen pilots. The reports prompted an investigation into the F-22 plane’s oxygen delivery system. Senior military officials cleared the planes for flight last month even though the exact cause of the hypoxia issues reported by pilots had not been pinpointed.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis spokeswoman Monica-Miller Rodgers said what led to the Virginia pilot’s symptoms remains under investigation.
Raptors in Alaska also were grounded for two days as a precautionary measure following the incident at Langley, but they returned to flight Monday.
The stealth fighters were introduced in 2005 and have flown hundreds of Homeland Security missions but have seen no combat. About 30 of nation’s 170 F-22 Raptors are based in Virginia and 40 are stationed at the Anchorage base.
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The Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz have recently approved an implementation plan developed by Air Combat Command officials that will allow the F-22 Raptor to resume flight operations after a four-month stand down.
“We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate,” Schwartz said. “We’re managing the risks with our aircrews, and we’re continuing to study the F-22′s oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance.”
In a task force approach to implementation, Air Combat Command officials developed a comprehensive incremental return-to-fly plan that balances safety and the expedient qualification of pilots against the inherent risks of flying advanced combat aircraft, officials said.
The entire fleet will undergo an extensive inspection of the life support systems before returning to flight, with follow-on daily inspections, officials said. The aircraft is capable and authorized to fly above 50,000 feet.
Pilots will use additional protective equipment and undergo baseline physiological tests. The return-to-fly process will begin with instructor pilots and flight leads regaining their necessary proficiency, then follow with other F-22 wingmen.
The commander of Air Combat Command directed a stand-down of the F-22 fleet May 3 as a safety precaution, following 12 separate reported incidents where pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. The incidents occurred over a three-year period beginning in April 2008. Officials remain focused on the priorities of aircrew safety and combat readiness. The return-to-fly plan implements several risk mitigation actions, to include rigorous inspections, training on life support systems, and continued data collection.
Source: U.S. Air Force
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The November 2010 crash of a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor was caused by a malfunction with the aircraft engine’s bleed air system, an industry source said. The pilot, Capt. Jeff “Bong” Haney of the 525th Fighter Squadron, was killed in the accident.
Another source, a pilot, confirmed that information. The fighter squadron is based in Alaska.
An Air Force accident report said the F-22, tail number 06-4125, had a bleed air problem that caused both the stealth fighter jet’s Environmental Control System (ECS) and On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) to automatically shut down, the sources said.
The report has been released to Air Force officials at Pacific Air Forces, but has not been made public, the industry source said. The F-22 fleet was grounded May 3 after pilots suffered more than a dozen hypoxia-like incidents while flying.
Lt. Col. John Dorrian, an Air Force spokesman wrote in an email, “The information provided by your ‘industry source’ is not a wholly accurate characterization of the crash. However, due to the ongoing Accident Investigation Board process I am not able to provide point-by-point confirmation, as the information is not yet releasable. PACAF is conducting the AIB process and will release appropriate information once the process is complete.”
The bleed air system siphons off air from a jet engine’s compressor section to generate power, supply oxygen and inert gases, and handle heating and cooling.
If the ECS and OBOGS shut down, the pilot would not have air coming into the cockpit, and would have to switch to his emergency oxygen supply and dive to 10,000 feet, another source said.
“If the ECS is out … there is no conditioned air pressure pushing through the OBOGS, so he would be sucking rubber,” the source said. However, as the aircraft descended, “the cabin pressure would be gradually rising as long as the canopy was still intact completely,” he said.
But Haney’s F-22 never recovered from its dive. The twin-engine jet hit the ground, and it is unclear whether the pilot had switched to his emergency oxygen supply, the industry source said.
“The rate at which he descended, though, he would have been at a hypoxia-safe altitude within time to have not fully succumbed to hypoxia and should have only had symptoms versus unconsciousness,” the pilot source said. “The green ring [emergency oxygen bottle] in the Raptor is a tough pull, and it was altered to give the pilot some pressure.”
Activating the emergency oxygen system is tricky in the Raptor, the source continued.
“It is a double pull that has to be practiced and experienced a few times before you end up in that bad situation, or you will panic,” he said.
The industry source said the report declared that the accident was not related to the OBOGS.
But there are skeptics who say the OBOGS can’t be ruled out as a culprit.
“Around May, the aircrew were briefed that the mishap OBOGS unit was operating fine on [Haney's] flight,” the pilot source said.
The source said that if the report’s findings are accurate, though he is not convinced it is, it could be that other physiological factors with pilot’s g-tolerance and the oxygen levels in his body could have played a role in the crash. Haney was attempting a maneuver called a “rejoin” and made a fairly aggressive turn during the procedure, the pilot source said.
“I would have done the same thing with a Raptor in my hands,” he said. “It’s just that if OBOGS and the whole ECS was working nominally, physiological stuff is what might have crept up on him and impaired his normal ability.”
The pilot source said the investigation would have had to determine Haney’s oxygen supply and g-tolerance in that exact instance, but a precise assessment would not have been possible because of the condition of the pilot after the crash.
“I don’t see how you can absolutely rule out OBOGS by checking a smoked and crushed system and using what aircraft data was available based on a lack of an [Integrated Caution and Warning] showing unacceptable [oxygen] concentration or pressure,” the pilot source said. “You have to look at what testing was done to call those concentration and pressure limits as good, and that goes back before the flight of Ship 4001,” the first F-22 test plane.
Questions remain as to the nature and cause of the bleed air system malfunction.
Hans Weber, who owns Tecop International, a San Diego-based aerospace consulting firm, said that while bleed air systems are ubiquitous, they are complex and occasionally malfunction.
“It’s a fairly complicated system,” said Weber, a former member of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Research, Engineering and Development Advisory Committee. “So there can be failures in it.”
Bleed air is very hot when it is sucked from the compressor; it goes through a series of heat exchangers to cool it to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. From there, it is further processed and cooled before it is used. Failures are rare, but they do happen, Weber said.
What is particularly worrisome is that aircraft bleed air systems have built-in safety gear, and whatever this malfunction was, it managed to overcome them, he said.
Further, Weber said that even if the OBOGS is exonerated in this incident, there have been more than a dozen hypoxia incidents. It is possible the problem is related to the other oxygen system incidents, he said.
“Might that apply to the others? Is this an outlier or at the core of the problem?” Weber asked.
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The U.S. Air Force has lifted a two-week-old flight ban that had grounded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, following a power problem on a plane at Edwards Air Force Base in California. While the probe continues, engineers determined that it is safe to resume test flights, said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office.
Flight operations will resume for the rest of the planes, which are based at Edwards and at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.However, two F-35s based at Eglin in Florida will remain grounded because they lack the monitoring systems used in developmental test aircraft that can detect any problems in flight.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s biggest procurement program at a planned $382 billion to buy 2,457 of the stealth F-35 jets in different versions for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The F-35 may be a target for budget cuts as the Pentagon is pressed to help lower the federal deficit. The Defense Department will need to find at least $325 billion in cuts over the next 10 years in the first phase of a $2.4 trillion deficit- reduction agreement approved by Congress. Another round of $500 billion in defense cuts may be imposed if Congress fails to approve enough budget savings in other areas.
The Air Force has also grounded Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor, the military’s most advanced fighter, because of reported problems with the plane’s system for supplying oxygen to the pilot. The flight ban on the F-22, in effect since May, remains until an investigation is completed in a few months, said Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes.
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Blood tests on F-22 Raptor fighter pilots after they reported “hypoxia-like symptoms” during flight have turned up chemicals from oil fumes, burned antifreeze and propane.
But if the Air Force believes that might be a cause of pilots’ symptoms, it’s not saying, reports the Air Force Times. Carbon monoxide also is suspect in the incidents, but it leaves the blood quickly. Many of the troubled flights originated at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
From the Air Force Times:
“There is a lot of nasty stuff getting pumped into the pilots’ bloodstream through what they’re breathing from that OBOGS [On-Board Oxygen Generation System]. That’s fact,” one former F-22 pilot said. “How bad it is, what type it is, exactly how much of it, how long – all these things have not been answered.”
The blood tests were performed after each of the 14 incidents in which pilots reported various cognitive dysfunctions and other symptoms of hypoxia. One couldn’t remember how to change radio frequencies. Another scraped trees on his final approach to the runway – and later could not recall the incident.
“These guys are getting tested for toxins and they’ve [gotten] toxins out of their bloodstreams,” the source said. “One of the guys was expelling propane.”
This source, along with the others, requested anonymity for fear of retribution.
The Raptor fleet was mostly grounded in May, months after Capt. Jeff Haney died in a so far unexplained crash north of Anchorage. The Air Force said it was investigating the F-22s’ onboard oxygen supply system.
Sources said that in Haney’s last few radio calls before his jet disappeared, he sounded drunk, a classic sign of hypoxia. Haney was known as a prodigiously skilled aviator who was in line to attend the elite Air Force Weapons School.
F-22 Raptor pilots have been training in simulators since May, but they will have to be retrained in the actual jets if the grounding extends beyond 210 days, a former pilot said.
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MARTINSBURG – The 2011 Thunder Over the Blue Ridge airshow and open house will feature what organizers are calling a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to see the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, a new fighter aircraft that features plenty of power and speed.
Although the F-22 won’t be performing, airshow visitors will have the opportunity to see it up close and learn more about its capabilities from the pilots who fly it.
“Last year we brought you the Thunderbirds and this year we’re going to bring you variety and fire. It’s going to be a different show with a very exciting lineup,” Col. Brian Truman said at the July 1 afternoon press conference, where he and others discussed the free two-day event that is co-sponsored by the 167th Airlift Wing, United Way of the Eastern Panhandle and Eastern Regional Airport Authority.
Truman, who is vice commander of the 167th Airlift Wing and president of Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Inc., said a variety of military and civilian aerial acts will be part of this year’s lineup.
One new addition will be the U.S. Navy’s Trojan Horseman, a T-28 warbird aerobatic formation demonstration team, which is slated to fly six vintage World War II aircrafts, he said. The team is slated to perform its choreographed “Salute to the Armed Forces” to patriotic music.
Also appearing will be the Black Daggers, the official U.S. Army Special Operations command parachute demonstration team, as well as the Viper East F-16 Demonstration Team, Truman said.
First Lt. Nate Mueller, a pilot who flies C-5 transport aircraft, predicted the F-22‘s “premier display” will “bring out the aviator in everyone who gets an up-close look.”
“This is a rare opportunity to see the world’s most sophisticated fighter aircraft up close and personal right in our own backyard. It’ something people won’t want to miss,” Mueller said.
He said this stealth aircraft is assigned to the Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
It has the capacity to cruise at supersonic airspeeds splintering the sound barrier and “boasts being capable of simultaneously conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions with near impunity,” according to a news release announcing the F-22‘s local appearance.
At some point a jet-powered truck will also “roar down the runway,” Truman said. “And we’re definitely going to blow things up with pyrotecnics. … I can guarantee you it’s going to be exciting.”
Last year’s airshow drew an estimated crowd of about 85,000 over the Labor Day weekend. The event will be held Sept. 17-18 this year when it returns to the Eastern Regional Airport. It will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
A children’s village will again be featured in one of the base’s 80,000-square-foot hangers and will offer lots of “unique hands-on activities” courtesy of NASA and others, said Sr. Master Sgt. Todd Kirkwood, who is organizing it.
Organization Vice President Nic Diehl agreed this year’s program has some real crowd-pleasers.
“Most of the acts are new. … And we have a better civilian lineup than we’ve ever had before,” Diehl said.
Donations collected at the 2010 show generated more than $100,000 from visitors, and that money was given to the United Way. Admission is free, but a $10 donation benefiting the United Way is encouraged.
United Way officials stressed the importance of funding generated by the airshow and how it helps support their work within the community.
President Tom Jones said the partnerships that made it possible were “over the top” last year. It was a cooperative effort that included 24 volunteer vendors at the show – most of them United Way agencies, he added.
“It’s a community effort and we’re happy to be part of it,” Jones said.
Wing Commander Col. Roger Nye said the community is a driving force behind this show.
“It is a great opportunity for the families to come out here. We’re talking about community. We don’t do this because we are trying to show off anything about ourselves. It’s about giving the community an opportunity to come and see what the men and women in uniform, who live and work right here, do for this nation and give them a chance to enjoy it,” Nye said. “We’re also very proud of how much money was raised last year and being able to give back to the United Way.”
United Way Executive Director Jan Callen said the $100,000 was distributed in a number of ways, including helping fund The Journal’s Warm the Children program, which offers clothing to area children; and the Warming Hands and Hearts program, which offers heating assistance to those in need.
Callen said the $100,000 generated by last year’s airshow was an important part of the approximately $300,000 allocated to about 30 agencies this week.
“The money from the airshow is almost one-third of what the board had the discretion to give out, and that’s a big deal to us,” Callen said.