August 9, 2010

Vince Vaughn to Skydive Into Chicago Air & Water Show

Vince Vaughn will team up with the U.S. Army Golden Knights to kick-off the 52nd Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. Saturday, August 14th at 11:00am Vaughn will descend towards North Avenue Beach in a tandem skydive with the Golden Knights.

Vaughn will experience the exhilaration of a jump from 12,500 feet and a free fall with speeds exceeding 120 MPH. He will be in good hands as the Golden Knights have performed tandem jumps with other celebrities and dignitaries including Bill Murray, two years ago in Chicago, and George H.W. Bush.

Vaughn who is spotted often in Chicago has been in town most recently filming Ron Howard's The Dilemma.

August 5, 2010

New Treats at the Chicago Air & Water Show

seantucker_chicago.jpgEach year the Mayor's office tries to offer something new or special at the Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. In addition to the standard excitement the airshow brings there are a few new additions that have me excited.

First off Chicagoans will get a chance to be one of the first airshow audiences to see Sean D. Tucker's newest airplane the Challenger III biplane. Sean began performing in this new airplane in late-June and this will be just the fifth airshow in this new airplane. According to Sean the plane is "30% better" (sounds like a laundry detergent commercial) and as a result he can perform maneuvers beyond what his previous Challenger II was capable of. Airshow fans can expect to see new maneuvers including somersaults and multiple cartwheels. Sean has always pleased the fans at the Chicago Air & Water Show, this new aircraft will ensure many will walk away saying his act was their favorite.

Interested in learning more about the Challenger III biplane? Take a listen to Brian Norris, Operations coordinator for Team Oracle, discuss all the new features on the AVWeb Podcast.

billstein.jpgNew this year will be an appearance by Bill Stein in his Zivko Edge 540. Stein was a member of the famous Red Baron Stearman Squadron that used to be a regular act at the Chicago Air & Water Show. Bill's plane which has been referred to as his "Tumble Machine" will be sure to earn some cheers from the crowd as he shares his extreme aerobatic maneuvers. Something unique about his performance is that his aircraft uses cutting edge paint technology that allows the plane to continuously change colors based on varying angles between his aircraft and the spectators.

We also have learned that Actor & Pilot Treat Williams will be attending the 52nd Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. To many he may be best known for his leading role in the WB's Everwood. Pilots know that he is a passionate aviator who is a multiengine instrument rated commercial pilot with rotorcraft, CFI and Citation type ratings. PilotMag ran a feature story about Treat in their May/June issue.

According to the Mayor's office, Williams will be a special guest for Friday's practice show in which he will guest announce the first part of the show with Air Show Announcer Herb Hunter.

Stay tuned to MyFlightBlog.com for ongoing updates on the Chicago Air & Water Show. Please be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Chicago Air & Water Show including our Chicago Air & Water Show Viewing Guide highlighting the best places to watch the show.

August 14, 2009

Flying with Team Oracle Prior to the Chicago Air & Water Show

team_oracle.jpgEach year at the Chicago Air & Water Show Sean D. Tucker becomes a crowd favorite as he performers a memorable aerobatic routine in his Oracle Challenger bi-plane. I have always enjoyed his performances but it was an act outside of the plane that helped solidify him as my favorite airshow performer. A few years back at the Chicago Air & Water Show after a tiring performance he came down to show center and took the time to talk to the kids that were gathered and to sign a few autographs. His joy for flying was eaten up by the kids looking up to him and I realized he is one of the best ambassadors aviation could have.

In advance of this year's show I was offered the opportunity to spend half a day with Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle and jumped at the opportunity. I had no doubts, but after meeting Sean it was obvious that he absolutely loves coming to work each and every day, in fact I am sure he wouldn't call it work. You can see his enthusiasm first hand in this Chicago Tribune video interview.

My day started by joining a few other photographers and videographers in the Team Oracle Piper Seneca. We shadowed Sean in his Oracle Challenger bi-plane and Ben Freelove in the Oracle Extra 300 as they conducted a formation flight over Chicago. This was an amazing experience to watch two extremely talented pilots communicate and manage formation flying. Additionally, it provided an amazing vantage point for taking photos and some video.

Shortly after we landed I moved from the bulky Piper Seneca and into the sporty Extra 300. Ben got us airborne then said a magical thing "You have the plane". From that point forward he let me fly for a good 15-20 minutes while teaching me how to do various aerobatic maneuvers. We started with the basic rolls and loops and then he taught me how to combine the basic moves to do more advanced maneuvers like the Immelmen, Hammerhead & Cuban Eight. I was amazed at how well this plane performed and how easy it made all of these maneuvers. I am sure it helped that Ben is a phenomenal instructor which I am sure is a result of his experiences teaching at the Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety.

I finished off by doing my first spin. In my five years of flying, I have never been through Spin training. I had always assumed it was somewhat dangerous since it was not part of mainstream training. I was surprised to learn how easy it was to recover from a spin.

Prior to flying Sean had told me to be sure to have Ben show off the a few high-G maneuvers. After I had my share of flying I gave Ben his plane back and he put me through a 7.5G Hammerhead and then a high-G somersaulting roll, both of which were amazing. I love flying in general, but today's flight was an experience like no other I have had and I think I now have the aerobatic flying bug. I think I will have to seek out more opportunities to fly in an Extra 300.

If you are in the Chicago Area be sure to get out to the lakefront this weekend and enjoy the Team Oracle performance!

To the right you will find a few videos from both flights and also some photos below. I apologize for the shakiness of my video from the Seneca, this was my first stab at aerial photography.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

August 9, 2009

2009 Chicago Air & Water Show Schedule

seantucker_chicagp.jpgComing off the heels of strong crowds of nearly 600,000 aviation enthusiasts celebrating all aviation has to offer at Oshkosh's AirVenture, nearly 2.2 million people are expected to line the Chicago shoreline this weekend to enjoy the 51st Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. The Airshow returns to its traditional two-day schedule after celebrating its 50th anniversary last year with the addition of a Friday night show. That means Chicago Airshow Junkies can get a sneak peak with minimal crowds by setting out a blanket on the lakefront on Friday afternoon.

Most performers who have been hallmarks of recent Air & Water Show will be on hand again for this year's show including the locally based Lima Lima Flight Team, Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and The Firebirds Delta Team. Of course no airshow is complete without an appearance from Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle, always a crowd favorite.

Herb Hunter will return as MC for the event, his 22nd year in that role. Each year he brings a great enthusiasm for and deep knowledge of aviation to this event.

New this year is Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter. Helicopters have traditionally played minor roles in airshows unable to perform the awe-inspiring acrobatics feats that their fixed wing counterparts can. That changed a few years ago when aviation enthusiast and Red Bull founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, convinced Aaron to find a way to perform aerobatics in a helicopter. Aaron now pilots the Bölkow Bo-105 in a way most airshow attendees have never seen. Max has performed more consecutive rolls in a helicopter, five, than anyone else. I expect him to quickly become a crowd favorite at this year's airshow.

thunderbirds_chicago.jpgThe United States Air Force Thunderbirds are this year's headliners and will be arriving in town, earlier then normal, on Monday. They will be taking Chicago Hometown Hero Brian Otto for a ride in the back seat of one of their F-16s. So you can expect to hear the roar of their jets over Chicago all week long.

This year the water and air portions of the show have been combined. So all activities will begin at 10am this year and run through 4pm. A complete list of airshow performers can be found on the Chicago Air & Water Show website.

As in previous years I will bring coverage of the Airshow to you throughout the week. I will be attending the Airshow media day earlier in the week. If you have specific questions you would like answered let me know and I will seek out the answers for you.


Posted at 9:41 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 17, 2008

Chicago Air and Water Show Notice to Airmen

airshow_tfr.jpgEver wonder how a pilot knows to stay clear of an airshow? According to Federal Aviation Regulations 91.03 "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." Therefore it is the pilot's responsibility to determine whether there are any hazards along the intended route of flight.

A pilot can take advantage of many online services to fulfill this requirement or make a call to flight service briefer. Before each of my flights I contact Flight Service for a last minute check on the weather and also to double check for TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) or NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen). If I had been intending to fly along the lakefront I would have learned during this process that there was a Notice to Airmen restricting flight within five miles of the airshow center.

In the example of the Chicago Air & Water Show they communicate the location by using the show centers location in regards to the Chicago O'Hare VOR. For example the Airspace is defined as having a show center located at 13.6 nautical miles out from the Chicago O'Hare VOR on the 106° radial. The flight restriction is then for a radius of 5 nautical miles from that point from the surface to 16,000 feet.

You can view a sample of the Notice on the FAA website.

August 14, 2008

Riding Shotgun in the T-6 Texan

ChicagoAirandWaterShow2008_t-6.jpgThe 2008 Chicago Air & Water Show roared into town today. Military and civilian aircraft from all over the country began arriving this morning at the Gary International Airport where most of them will be based throughout the airshow.

Today at the airshow media day I had the opportunity to take a sneak peek at many of the acts, speak with some of the pilots, go for some rides and best of all fly the T-6 Texan! As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of the acts I am most excited about this year is Bill Leff's Night Airshow. His T-6 Texan is specially equipped with pyrotechnics so he can put on a thrilling unique night time airshow experience. In meeting Bill I learned that he is from Dayton, Ohio. I shared with him that I learned to fly in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas. After learning I was a pilot, Bill offered to let me fly the T-6 Texan when we went for a flight.

I had flown in a T-6 with the AeroShell team previously, though since they fly in tight formations there was no opportunity for me to fly. Shortly after getting airborne Bill told me the plane was mine. I flew us out to the practice area and performed a few turns and climbs. Once at the practice area he took over the aircraft to perform some aerobatics. We flew a variety of maneuvers but my favorites were the barrel roll and the loop. I love the power of the T-6! On the way back to Gary he gave me the plane back and had me fly us back until we were on short final where he took over the plane for landing. I had a great time talking to Bill and flying with him and am really looking forward to watching him perform on Friday night. If you are in the Chicago Area stop by the lakefront tomorrow night to see him perform.

2008ChicagoAirandWaterShow_limalima.jpgAs we parked the plane the Lima Lima Flight Team returned from a press flight. Sitting in the back seat of the lead plane was Florence Henderson (AKA Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch). Henderson will be singing the national anthem each day of the airshow. She was kind enough to take a photo with me (Available in slideshow below).

While standing there I learned there was a spare seat in one of Lima Lima's T-34s for their next sortie, so I jumped on that. Rick "Knuckles" Nichols took great care of me and gave a very enjoyable flight. We were in the seventh plane in an eight plane formation. During they show they will perform as a six-plane team, Nichols will serve as the team announcer during the show. Be sure not to miss Lima Lima's performances this weekend.

Throughout the day the Blue Angels were coming and going to do spot checks and practice flights over Chicago. I did not get to see a preview of their Chicago Show but did enjoy seeing a few maneuvers back at Gary. I guess it gives me something to look forward to during the next few days.


2008 Chicago Air & Water Show Media Day

August 13, 2008

The Show Must Go On - Aeroshell to Perform Without Team Leader

aeroshell1.jpgPrior to the 2006 Airshow, I had the opportunity to take a flight with Chicago Air & Water Show regulars, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. The Aeroshell team is made up of four talented pilots and their T-6 Texan aircraft. Unfortunately, this year the team will be flying a three-plane formation due to a non-flying injury to team leader, Alan Henley.

In late July, Alan was paralyzed from the neck down after a fall in his home. He is currently at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital's trauma unit, where he is listed in serious but stable condition. You can read about his recovery on a CaringBridge.org blog being authored by his wife. My prayers go out to Alan, his family and his teammates.

His twin brother, Mark, will take over as lead pilot for the formation for this weekend's show. I had the opportunity to fly with Mark in 2006. What I took away from meeting Mark and the rest of the team was that they absolutely love their jobs. These guys were extremely passionate about aviation and enjoyed entertaining fans across the country with their flying skills.

I am looking forward to their performance this weekend but saddened that they won't be joined by their team leader, Alan. Get well soon Alan!

August 12, 2008

Chicago Air & Water Show Practice Schedule

chicago_air_water_show_blue_angels.jpgMany avid Chicago Air & Water Show fans have relied on the fact that Friday has typically been a practice day. Airshow enthusiasts could come down to the lakeshore and experience many of the airshow acts without the massive crowds the weekend event typically draws.

This year with the Air Show adding a formal Friday night show many people have asked me, "Does that mean there will be a practice show on Thursday?". According to an Airshow representative "There will be no formal practice like in the past but there will be flying to do spot checks".

Most the performance teams will arrive at the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Thursday, August 14th. That afternoon many of the teams will be taking members of the media up for flights over the lake but well south of the city closer to Gary. After their media responsibilities, teams like the Blue Angels will likely do a city spot check so expect to hear them roaring over the city starting on Thursday. There may also be some practicing on Friday in the morning prior to Friday nights show opening.

Chicago Air & Water Show Adds a Friday Night Show to the Schedule

t-6texan_night.jpg
One of my favorite weekends is just around the corner. The Chicago Air & Water Show takes place this weekend on the Chicago lakefront. Since this will the the 50th Annual Air & Water Show the city has decided to celebrate by adding an additional day to the festivities. The event is the oldest and largest free admission air and water show in the country.

Civilian and military performers will arrive in the Chicago area on Thursday. So the skies over Chicago will become active starting Thursday morning. Most the practice and spot checks will take place Thursday afternoon and Friday morning prior to the Friday night event.

Two Chicagoan Actors will help kick-off the show on Friday. Bill Murray, who played a confused Army Soldier in Stripes, will kick-off the show when he jumps with the U.S. Army Parachute Team, The Golden Knights at 3pm on Friday. Fellow Chicagoan Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band will play a free concert at the North Avenue Beach house at 5pm. After the concert there will be more acrobatics and high speed flying leading up to an 8:45 firework show.

I am especially interested to check out a new act this year. Bill Leff will be piloting a Korean War restored T-6 Texan. His plane has been retrofitted to allow him to perform a night show featuring pyrotechnics and streams of light.

The Airshow continues on Saturday and Sunday from 11am - 4pm. Unfortunately, there is not an official Chicago Air & Water Show schedule. Typically the show starts with civilian acts then moves into military acts culminating with the feature act which this year is the U.S. Navy Blue Angeles. The following appearances have been confirmed:


Typically there are variety of additional flybys by military fighters and bombers. I am told there will be a few surprise flybys over the weekend that have not yet been announced. More on the Chicago Air & Water Show in the days to come.

August 19, 2007

Great Performances at the Chicago Air and Water Show

thunderbird_flame.gifI had a great day of aviation fun on Saturday. As I described in the previous post I got up early and went flying on Saturday morning. I made sure to return from the skies in time to get downtown for the 11am start of the 49th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. We arrived right as the U.S. Army Golden Knights were delivering the American Flag to the lakefront to kick-off the event.

The air show was well organized to break up military and civilian acts through-out the day. There were several highlights to the day. Probably the neatest individual demonstration was that of the F-22 Raptor. I had seen this fighter at last year's air show but it simply performed a few brief passes and did not show-off its amazing capabilities. On Saturday during a full demonstration the crowd got a chance to see why this is the most advanced aircraft in the United States Air Force. I was absolutely amazed by its maneuverability.

seantucker.gifSean Tucker and Team Oracle, as usual provided a great flying demonstration. During his performance they broadcast his voice over the public address system where you can clearly here his enthusiasm for flying. What was wonderful was later in the day when he came to show center and shook hands with fans. He took time to talk to some kids about aviation and give each a hat. It surely made the kids day and maybe the combination of the event and meeting Sean Tucker will inspire some of them to become pilots. I too, enjoyed getting a chance to thank Sean for the great show he put on for Chicago.

I also really enjoyed the precision flying of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. They roared through the city showing off great teamwork flying at times within a few feet of each other. They gave a performance worth of the U.S. Air Force's 60th Anniversary celebration.

us_army_golden_knights_c31.gifFor Sunday's show I was scheduled to fly along with the U.S. Army Golden Knights in their C-31 for their afternoon jump. Unfortunately, low ceilings and poor visibility caused officials to cancel the show midway through the afternoon so our flight was scrubbed. Although, I did not get to fly with them I did enjoy spending 30 minutes touring their plane and talking to two members of the Golden Knights. I can tell you that they really love their jobs.

Photos that I took from this weekend's events can be found on Flickr. Here is hoping for two rain free days for next year's 50th Annual Air and Water Show!