Say, just how much did that ‘Fly-Over’ cost last weekend?

by on February 15, 2011 · 43 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Popular, San Diego, Veterans, War and Peace

Is it just us, or is anyone else curious as to what the gigantic Navy “fly-over” cost last weekend?

In this time of severe budget cuts, loss of jobs and income, of mounting debt, of record military budgets, last Saturday’s “Parade of Flight” stood out as an awesome display of Naval Aviation, celebrating San Diego’s rightful place in history as the birthplace of one hundred years of Navy flying.

The 189 aircraft chest-thumbing demonstration across San Diego Bay, under the Coronado Bridge (nope, the name has not been changed to Reagan yet), up the belly of the Bay, over Point Loma, where a wedge of jets from the carrier John C. Stennis created a mile-wide formation, created a sight never seen in this once-sleepy resort village next to the Mexican border.

The fly-over was so glamorous, that an entire landing craft filled with bigwigs attended. We had the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of all Naval Ops, the Marine Corps Commandant all here for the spectacle. The whole thing was truly a gift to the good people of San Diego by the Navy, and it allowed the pilots to forget that jet pilots may be a thing of the past over this next decade, as the military increases its drones and pilotless, wingless aircraft.

The 2 and a half hour show, which started around 1 pm (1300 military time) included the Blue Angels and vintage aircraft and the modern F/A-18 Super Hornets, and it included tours and open houses at North Island Naval Air Station, the carrier Stennis, and several other naval war vessels, where 75 aircraft were specially parked at North Island for sightseers, yet also included restricted access to the middle of the Bay by the Coast Guard.

This salute to San Diego’s principle military partner brought good parts of the City to a halt however. As thousands crowded the shores, as an estimated 70,000 visitors, vets and their families stormed Coronado and North Island, the Coronado Bridge was gridlock by 10 a.m.  By 11:20, traffic was backed up more than a mile on I-5.

I mean, this is a Navy town, and the Navy has a right to show off, doesn’t it?  The Navy has brought so much to this city; the paychecks to its sailors and marines keep the economy in San Diego flowing; its former officers staff the highest echelons of government and business here; its former sailors have bought mortgaged homes and have for decades ensured a conservative slant to the electoral results and general atmosphere of the place. Why, there is more Navy and Marine Corps might in San Diego than anywhere else in the world.

And spectacles like this can help us all forget that last year, more military personnel committed suicide than were killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s just that such displays like last Saturday’s are costly.

For starters, the cost of flying vintage planes is really high. Plus, the Navy said aviation fuel is running $5 a gallon, and that many pilots burned $4,500 of fuel in just one hour on Saturday. Let’s see … 189 times $4500 in fuel costs for one hour … equates to only $850,500.  What’s a million dollars, if it can’t buy an afternoon of fun for all those in awe of our military prowess.

Then there’s the cost of sailing an aircraft carrier into the Bay. The cost of all the extra law enforcement to manage traffic, the Coast Guard expenses.

But I have not seen anything of the costs of this show – not one word – in all the articles published about the event by the San Diego U-T.  And there were at least half a dozen articles prepping us for the gigantic “fly over.”

A letter-writer to the U-T did, however, raise the money issue in today’s paper. It was an oblique reference to the costs, but a reference afterall, even if it singled out the City.

V. Price of San Diego wrote:

I was wondering what the city of San Diego was going to do with all the money collected Saturday from all the parking tickets handed out during the Navy fly-over. I don’t mind paying; I was guilty. I thought the city might cut us a little slack for this special air show.  I can only hope the money is used to keep my daughters’ teaching and library jobs secure.

Good for you, V. Price – you made the connection – sort of. Price complains of the threat to the jobs of her/his daughters as public employees, who apparently work in schools and libraries. And that’s the connection I made as well.

Here we are browning-out the fire stations, laying off teachers, cops, closing schools, not replenishing our crumbling infrastructure, kicking people out of their underwater homes … yet spending almost a million dollars just on plane fuel an hour for an airshow that was a huge glorified orgy of air power right in the middle of two wars.

And this doesn’t even explore the costs to the environment, with all the pollution from the jets, as well as all the exhaust from waiting cars on the freeway, on Coronado Bridge and throughout North Island.

My curiosity had me call the Navy. I didn’t have high hopes of actually getting any answers, as I know the military. My father was a career military officer and I went to one of the service academies for awhile. But call I did. And after being referred to someone else a couple of times, I did reach Angela at the Navy Public Affairs Office.

Angela was very polite, and when I raised the issue of the “price tag” for Saturday, she replied that they are still trying to come up with it. But that the Department of Defense sets asides funds for these “open houses” in order “to give the public the opportunity to see the military’s capabilities.”

Plus, she continued, this fly-over was just a fraction of what other shows cost.  I tried to pin her down on this. What other shows? The annual Miramar air show? The Miramar show is an actual demonstration, she said. It’s more costly, as Saturday’s show was not really a “demonstration” but it was just a fly-over. I didn’t want to argue with her, so I didn’t bring up the fake “dog fight” that two Hornets got into over Point Loma.

And I loved one of her last comments. It was classic military-ese. Besides, she said, it was all billed as training exercise. Every hour up in the air is just another hour of training for the pilots.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah Dean February 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I was wondering about the environment itself — did the EPA waive all pollution controls for this event? You could see the jet fuel pouring out of a majority of the aircraft. What did we do to our city air — or for that matter water — pollution levels?


barbara February 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

It’s a way for men with small weenies to express their power, their awesome awesomeness. IMHO


barbara February 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Real men don’t worry about stuff like that when their chests are all puffed out with their fruit salad all shiney and bright :)


Ruth Weston February 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

Sounds like Barbara needs some action.


barbara February 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm

About money in times of severe cuts. My neighbor works at NI and last year when the pot of stimulus money arrived, part of it (31/2 million) was used to strip and paint a giant intricate logo on a hangar floor where they work on aircraft. He says the brother of the person who awarded the contract got the contract. I sure can think of better ways to spend that money. I asked him to please go public but he is too scared and who can blame him? There have not been any spending restraints on the MIC for so long, I doubt these austerity measures will affect them. Lip service, that’s about it.


thinking out loud February 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

This is worth a call to the watchdog about…more details please.


Jeeni Criscenzo February 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Thanks for writing this Frank. I watched from our house in Linda Vista which has a great view of that piece of sky, but missed all of the vintage planes which flew below tree level. I also wondered: 1 – how much this cost the taxpayers, 2 – how much this hurt our environment and 3 – considering that oil is well – a finite resource, shouldn’t we be more discretionary about blowing it out the rears of a bunch of planes for no reasonably functional reason? But I guess you can surmise that keeping the masses in a high state of blind patriotism is very functional for some powers that be. I got bored with the spectacle and returned to working in my garden – missing the big wing ding at the end.


Cynthia February 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Well, I have to admit that although I wish all of our tax monies (and I wish we had more of them too) were spent on schools and libraries, I didn’t give a moment’s thought to the cost of the fly-over as we were working on our fence in North Park. I have never been interested in spectacle, or in going to an airshow, but it was mighty exciting to see those planes come out of nowhere and fly over Thorn St. Mesmerizing. And I never thought one second about the money–there’s a peasant mentality for you! Or is it?


Goatskull February 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm

We had some friends from out of town visiting and while we didn’t attend this we did see some of the aircraft while hanging kicking it at Dog Beach. Kind of cool I suppose but not worth dealing with the traffic to actually head to NI.

From what I’ve read, most of this event was funded by private companies. I’m not sure exactly what kind of companies. Military contracting companies or just regular local businesses or both.


OB Joe February 16, 2011 at 2:16 am

This was nothing less than a glorified flexing of military muscle for a hometown populace looking to have their quality of life seriously restricted with budget and funding cuts, with the loss of fire and police protection, with the closing of schools and libraries, with the laying off of teachers, librarians, other city workers. It was a gargantuan circus for the peasants. Remember Rome? Rome didn’t care what it spent on its spectacles of warrior (gladiator v gladiator) and military might, as long as the peasants were amused and didn’t take out their real frustrations on the rulers.


OB Joe February 16, 2011 at 2:23 am

Another thought … I hope these Navy pilot types don’t join the OB VFW when they retire, that’s all we need is some top gun swaggering into Point Loma and saying “we’re here to stay!” Before you know it these ex-pilots will be defecating and urinating and sleeping it off in the sand boxes of every elementary school in the area.


Goatskull February 16, 2011 at 8:33 am

Seriously? I really hope you’re just being sarcastic. First off the likeliness they would join any VFW is pretty slim. Most of members of the VFW are older prior enlisted vets, 2nd, what if they do? Do you really think all military pilots act that way? Have you ever met any? Arguing against tax dollars being used for this show is one thing, but taking cheap shots at the individuals who were in it is kind of un called for.


OB Joe February 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

Goatskull – sorry, yes it was all a bit of late night sarcasm. You know the type that grips you when you observe stinking contradictions like the good people of Pt Loma denying the vets their club house and then the next week enjoying the glory of our naval aviators flying over their homes. It stinks, man!


Goatskull February 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

Fair enuff.


Ruth Weston February 16, 2011 at 8:36 am

And if not for the veterans it would be YOU defecating and urinating and sleeping it off in the sand boxes of every elementary school in the area.

Go back to Iraq.


OB Joe February 16, 2011 at 10:25 am

Ruth – here’s my response to you: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! What are you talking about???? “Go back to Iraq”?? what kind of disheveled comment is that? Where is that coming from??


barbara February 16, 2011 at 10:35 am

OB Joe , had the exact same thoughts about those odd comments.


Tim Molinare February 16, 2011 at 5:06 am

A fighter jet is a weapon: It is not a toy.

It is made for killing: Not for joy.


thinking out loud February 16, 2011 at 8:14 am

Oh what a dilemma we have here….
Yeah come on VFW set up a bar despite the outcry of a local neighborhood…..
But at the same time pissed off at the puffy chest fruit salad officers…..who validated their small weenies with a display of aircraft…

Hummm cant have it both ways can you ?? very interesting…


Ruth Weston February 16, 2011 at 8:30 am

The fly over probably cost about the same as it does to fly fighter jets at Miramar all day and night.

Don’t worry about the money…they will print more (haha)


barbara February 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

Tim, what an outstanding comment!


Tim March 30, 2011 at 6:14 am



do I know you from OB 1970’s?



The Mustachioed OBecian February 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

Maybe they should cancel the OB Christmas parade next year, too. Yah, that’s the ticket. Who needs cars idling for hours, belching fumes for the momentary pleasure that the community experiences for such a wasteful venture. Talk about a waste of expenses and resources.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 11:52 am

So, o’ mustached one, you are making a comparison between the huge “fly-over” involving thousands of sailors and pilots and nearly 200 aircraft, the sailing of an aircraft carrier into our harbor, and the probable millions spent on it with the OB Holiday Parade? Don’t you think that’s a very extreme attempt at a comparison? I think thousands of idling cars is always a concern, do you not agree?

So basically you disagree with the tenor of the article, that the glorified flexing of Navy muscle is not something to be questioned. Okay, understood. But to compare it with our annual parade? Ugh!


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 11:56 am

GET A LIFE> It was amazing. They would have burned fuel on training missions any way, and there were also pilots who burned 5 grand of their own money because the planes weren’t owned by the military. Plus do you know how many Pearl Harbor survivors were in attendance and loved it. What about our other vets who celebrated the 100 year party. I think the Navy has brought enough money into this town to have a huge celebration for their 100 year birthday.

Another prime example of the OB Rag not getting it. Keep trolling for articles until your next “stickergate” hits. Weak sauce OB Rag.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Sorry OBWarZone – I mean anybody with “war” in their online title has got to be someone who enjoys the military flexing their muscle. Sorry to disrupt your nice world of pleasantries, and sorry to have to question the military’s spending millions of our money for this glorified excuse at entertainment of the masses, while everything from libraries to schools to firehouses are shutting down. We have spent $3 Trillions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so what’s a few more millions, huh? Just because there are a few Pearl Harbor survivors in the crowd? Listen, the maintenance of the empire is what is sinking this country. Remember how the USSR failed? Due to all the resources they poured into defense and their failed war in …. drum roll please …. Afghanistan.

Guess you’re still smarting that we exposed how some in OB hate the homeless so much that they’re willing to deny them their dignity and human rights. (And oh BTW, you’re email address is soooo catchy. You’re so cool.) Sorry about getting so snarky at ya, but today – apart from other days – you’re sounding pretty riduculous. (Yeah, I know it’s misspelled)


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Comparing the US to the USSR is like that guy comparing the OB parade to the flyover. haha

As for “stickergate”… It just unfolded in a strange matter with the stickers and media. The focus shifted from the problem to the sticker and then went away. Help is needed, that is obvious. I continue to give water, food and such to those who seems to be in need, and always give when I can. We should all be grateful for what we have and help those who do not have.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Agreed. Hope to see your comments continue for a long time.


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

This flyover is a drop in the bucket Frank. Where is your piece on how much money the military has brought to this county? Homeowners, businesses, taxes all paid and started by former military members. SO the navy can protect your little blog and pump money into your economy for 100 years, but they cant celebrate for a day? You’re the one sounding pretty riduculous. (Yeah, I know it’s misspelled)

My email address is meant as a goof pal, so lets get that straight. And I am under the impression that those email addresses are private. So for you to mention it is not very cool, and a bit unsettling. And it shows that you have nothing to resort to but name calling. Please use my email address to send viruses, spam or whatever else. I’ll make sure to print this blog out as reference.


Patty Jones February 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

The word WAR is in your name “OBWarZone”. Email addresses ARE private here. the only ones that see email addresses are the administrators and the authors of the posts you are commenting on.


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm

good to know, thank you for explaining. =)


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

OBWZ – You still don’t get the point of the post. So I won’t go further into the contradiction of having our society broke next to the Navy spend millions like they did last Saturday. As far as giving the military a pass on their fly-over in what you call “celebrate for a day”, have you heard or seen the ANNUAL Miramar Air show? There’s their “celebrate for a day” thing. This event went way overboard. And it’s the Navy’s position – reflected in your comments – that the money would have just been spent anyhow. On training. I don’t buy that – … but I guess we all did.

Not responding to your “the Navy protected your little blog” reference.

It is one of the duties of a free press to hold government’s feet to the fire, whether it’s scandals at the mayoral level, at the Water District level, or with the military – which BTW has ruled this town since 1917. Dude, wake up.

Regarding your email address – I admit that my comment was a bit overly-snarky – but your tone of hatred for the OB Rag just got to me. Your address can only be seen by the author of the post – me – and the editorial staff – which I am part of it. I did not say anything to indicate what it was. And in fact you have to give an email address just to leave comments. So, for you to assume it’s a secret is just off base. But I should not have said anything about it, and for that I do apologize.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I do think it’s kind of ironic that you know my name but I don’t know yours. Some blogs and websites require a real name, but we don’t – maybe we should. It may give pause to those who come on here and leave piles of dung and then skip out anonymously.


barbara February 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Mr OBWarZone does not know the difference between an email address and a sign on moniker. I am very curious as to who the Navy is protecting this blog from. I’d rather have my tax money pumped back in to the economy through jobs and projects that are not war related. But then I guess a war economy is what some want and need.


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

He commented on my email address, which is separate from OBWarZone & hidden. Frank knows what I’m talking about.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm

… and what did you say your name was? …


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Yawn. For an Op blog, ya’ll take opposing comments way too seriously. It’s either your team or nothing. I come here for a reason and have contributed meaningful comments that others might share. And if anything, it’s my “comment” and I feel caught off guard by the editors comments. To call them “piles of dung” just shows that it’s your opinion or none at all. I love the idea and meaning behind this blog, I just believe it’s all one sided and often off track. I will continue to lurk, but think it’s my time to say adios for posting. This went from a fun blog to comment on, to an editor commenting on my email address, which should be hidden. I hope OB becomes the future focus of your blog. It’s been real.


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

The “piles of dung” was not meant to refer to your comment. You don’t know the caca that we have to deal with here, the comments that are so full of hate that we don’t approve them. We refuse to be a platform for haters. For extremists on the far right, nor for racists and sexists, and don’t approve dehumanizing and other extreme demeaning comments. These type of comments are, however, by far a minority. But they’re out there, and the anonymity protects them.

Perhaps I’m feeling a little disturbed today knowing that maybe a local OB writer who wrote about the homeless had her car torched in retaliation. Hmmm?

Besides that, your snark-filled initial comment today caught me off-guard, as many of your comments are helpful and insightful. Your distaste for me and this blog was just all too apparent and you used the homeless and the “stickergate” as you called it as references in putting us down. I already apologized about referring to your email address but without naming it. Apparently you are not the forgiving type. If it is adios then so be it.

On the issue of what we write about, about half of our posts are about OB or by OB writers. It’s difficult to write more as – really – this is a fairly small community. On top of that, OBceans are interested in more than just what happens here, that folks realize that there are lots of issues out there – in San Diego and our country that concern and involve us.


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm

I just read the blog about the OB writer….. that’s horrible.

And I probably picked a bad day to push your buttons, but I stand behind my thoughts on the flyover. Nothing personal, I just don’t care for the responses I get on here when I don’t agree with something. Yet, when I contribute or ask something that goes along with the blog’s side or opinion, all is fine. Just saying….


Frank Gormlie February 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Okay. In the future I’ll try not to take things said so personally. I’m not bullshiting you when I say I hope you remain as a commenter here.


OBWarZone February 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I’m not going anywhere, someone has to stir the pot. Lol….but in all seriousness, I was frustrated about the flyover deal and missed the other article about the writer. I would not have even brought this up had I read that sooner. Bad timing. Sorry folks..


John February 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

It probably cost more than it would cost to build the trolley line to Sea World & the Beach (two of San Diego’s most popular destinations). I cannot figure out why this wasn’t done in the first place.

I really do like OBJoe’s point about the VFW not being allowed while at the same time funding the whole dog and pony show.

And the link to the suicide story is terribly sad.

As far as the funding of the Air Show (or whatever it was called) being partially funded by private companies… they get paid by bloated gov contracts. Probably like the ones that Rep Randy Duke Cunningham helped award. Arguing that private companies paid for that show is laughable.

Who the f is in charge?


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