August 18, 2016
2016 Chicago Air & Water Show Media Day Experience
The 2016 Chicago Air & Water Show festivities kicked off today with the arrival of the civilian and military acts which roared into town just after Noon today. Many of the military teams including the U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet Demo Team and the U.S. Air Force F-35s performed spot checks of the Chicago Air & Water Show airspace and thrilled fans at the Chicago Cubs game with several flyovers.
The aircraft then made their way to the Gary International Airport for the Air & Water Show Media Day. Three civilian acts were busy much of the day taking members of the media up for flights, including Team Aeroshell in their T-6 Texans, Sean Tucker flying people in an Extra 300 and Team Aerostars in their Yak-52s.
I had the honor of flying with Team Aerostars this afternoon. Their team consists of three pilots and their aircraft. Our flight of three departed the Gary International Aiport in formation and made our way out over the lake where we split up so the pilots could demonstrate loops, barrel rolls and a half cuban. I never tire of doing aerobatics.
Shortly after returning from my flight experience the F-18 Demo Team arrived. The lead plane was flown by Lieutenant John "Toby" Keith, a family friend. I enjoyed watching his arrival. Later in the afternoon I was able to join him, his family and members of Troop 13 Boy Scouts (we both were members of that troop) planeside. He was kind enough to give me a walkaround tour of the airplane, explaining its many features. Be sure to check him out this weekend as I am sure he will put on a great show.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was the arrival of two U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning Stealth Fighters. This is their first appearance at the Chicago Air & Water Show. The aircraft showcases the latest and greatest fighter technology. The helmet worn by the pilot was specifically designed for the pilots to give the best situational awareness to the pilot. The helmet accepts input from six cameras outside the jet, providing a 360-degree view of the environment around the plane. So when Major Will Andreotta, one of the pilots, looks down from his cockpit he can see the ground via the image inputs provided by the onboard cameras and computers.
Last to arrive this afternoon were the Headline act, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are making their first appearance in Chicago since 2011. Expect them fly around 2:30 or 3pm each day of the show.
The weather forecast is looking sketchy for Saturday. My recommendation is to get out on Friday if you can, when there are fewer crowds, otherwise plan for Sunday. Check out my viewing guide for tips on where to watch the Air & Water Show from.