ENTERTAINMENT

Former Marine test pilot flies private Harrier jump jet in airshows

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One of the most visible casualties of sequestration has been summer airshows. Military budget cuts have forced many shows in our area and across the country to be canceled.

But it has also created a business boom for a local man and his airplane as he helps fill the military void.

Art Nalls, a Naval Academy graduate, is a retired Marine Corps test pilot who bought and restored his own Harrier fighter jet. It's the only privately owned flying Harrier in the world.

“I do one manuever that I call the Michael Jackson Moonwalk, I make the airplane do this as I’m backing up,” Nalls says. “It can hover, it can back up, it can stop right there in front of the crowd.”

Nalls and and fellow Harrier pilot Joe Anderson are using the jet to come to the rescue of a summer favorite - the local air show, now a sequestration endangered species.

Bryan Lilley, president of this weekend's Ocean City air show, hired Nalls after the budget cuts cost him his headliner.

“I'll bet you by the end of the year you'll see four out of five air shows having canceled for 2013,” Lilley says.

“They had a drop off in sponsorships as soon as the Blue Angels announced they weren't going to make it,” Nalls says. “People asked, 'why are we gonna spend the money to sponsor an air show if the Blues aren't gonna be there?' As soon as they announced us that trend completely reversed.”

“When you look at the air show from an event perspective you have to have that WOW,” Lilley says.

With military resources like the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds grounded because of sequestration, Nalls and his team are really the only show in town. Last year they did six air shows. This year its looking like 10, maybe more, each a chance to fill the void left by the Pentagon cost cutting.

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