No chance to see the Air Force Thunderbirds or the Navy's Blue Angels.
No flyover by a B-2 Spirit or an F-15E Strike Eagle.
No vintage World War II aircraft.
Most important, no 150,000 people coming into Bellevue for the city's signature annual event: the Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show at Offutt Air Force Base.
Offutt commanders on Wednesday said government budget cuts known as sequestration have grounded the two-day air show for this year. The show has been held nearly every year since 1972.
“It wasn't an easy decision to make,” said Col. John Rauch, 55th Wing commander.
Military aerial performances were suspended nationwide this week. The air show decision comes as the Defense Department also prepares to furlough civilian defense employees to cut costs.
Jim Ristow, president of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, said the show is the biggest event of the year for Nebraska's third-largest city. Hotel rooms and restaurants fill up quickly with thousands of people who come from around the region.
“It's a huge event,” he said.
Businesses and civic groups contribute money and time to the event, as does a stand-alone organization, Wings Over the Heartland. The Bellevue Kiwanis Club devotes a weekend before the show to Arrows to Aerospace, a community event that includes a parade, and other events to celebrate the base.
But, Ristow acknowledged, “It would be very hard to say we're furloughing people and still have an air show.”
Congress mandated $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts spread over nine years as part of a 2011 deal to increase the U.S. debt limit.
Although the cuts were designed to be so onerous that Congress and the president wouldn't let them occur, a congressional impasse allowed the automatic cuts to go forward.
Canceling the Offutt air show, which had been scheduled for Aug. 24 and 25, is certainly a high-profile consequence of the spending cuts, but the base also has cut hours for local training flights by 20 percent, Rauch said. Base commanders will know more about the sequestration's impact when they receive more specific budget numbers later this month.
Rauch said the 2012 show cost more than $200,000, but he didn't know what portion of that was military spending and what portion was local sponsorship. Base personnel who staff the event, which is free to visitors, are volunteers.
Runway repairs in 2006 and 1994 also forced cancellation of the show.
Rep. Lee Terry, who represented Offutt for years before congressional districts were redrawn, said he was disappointed by Wednesday's announcement.
“The Department of Defense needs to work out their priorities,” he said in a statement.
“And once they do, I'm hopeful that Offutt will once again host this great event that showcases the most modern military in the world and brings our community together.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who now represents Bellevue and the base, said he also was disappointed, although he acknowledged that the military is facing difficult budget cuts.
“Many Nebraskans have greatly enjoyed these air shows. ... I hope the suspension of such a good display of military readiness doesn't undermine public support for the service or hurt recruiting,” Fortenberry said in a statement.
Offutt hadn't yet signed contracts with nonmilitary acts for this year's show, said Maj. Brian Burger, the air show director.
“Knowing that (sequestration) was happening, we actually held off a little this year,” he said.
Under the budget cuts, the Air Force must reduce flying hours by 18 percent, or about 203,000 hours, spokeswoman Wendy S. Varhegyi said. Canceling air shows allows the military to concentrate flying time overseas and in “predeployment readiness training,” she said.
That means it's not just Offutt scaling back: Air shows are being canceled across the country after a Defense Department directive Monday to suspend operation of military demonstration teams such as the Air Force Thunderbirds, the Navy's Blue Angels and the Army's Golden Knights parachute team.
Under guidance from the Defense Department and Air Force headquarters, a base would still be allowed to hold an open house. It just couldn't fly planes, use military or nonmilitary aerial performance teams or spend any money.
Offutt commanders actually considered holding an open house without an air show, but Rauch said they determined that the costs would have been about the same.
Said Bellevue Realtor John Hansen, longtime president of the Offutt Advisory Council, “It's kind of hard to have an air show with no planes.”
Hansen doesn't buy the argument that the budget cuts were selectively targeted to maximize the impact to citizens.
“They've just got a certain amount of dollars they can work with. ... They're feeling it everywhere,” he said of the cuts.
Even if the community could raise money for an air show, Hansen asked, what message would that send to furloughed employees?
“Politically, that doesn't look very good, either,” he said. “You know, 'Why is the Air Force getting an air show when I'm getting a 20 percent pay cut?' ”
Meanwhile, the air show industry is pushing back. Wednesday, the International Council of Air Shows hired a law firm to lobby Congress on “air shows regarding sequestration related issues,” according to the Center for Public Integrity.
“It's never been necessary for us to hire a lobbyist. It's a pretty mom-and-apple-pie industry,” John Cudahy, the council's president, told the center. “But we have to do this now.”
World-Herald staff writer Henry J. Cordes contributed to this report, which also includes material from the New York Times.
An earlier version of this story erroneously said that the cancellation was the first time since 1971 that there would be no air show. There were at least two previous cancellations of the air show, in 1994 and 2006, both of those due to runway repairs.