August 20, 2005

Confessions of An Airshow Addict

f22stealth.jpgSo my plan was to go to the Chicago Air & Water Show on Sunday as we have guests in town today. But when they left to have lunch with a friend of theirs, I hailed a cab and followed the roar of jet engines to the lakefront. How could I resist the excitement of the airshow since I had an hour or two to kill?

My wife and I enjoyed watching the Lima Lima Flight Team perform. It was a thrill to watch after having flown with them just two days before. While there we also enjoyed the Red Baron Squadron and part of the Sean Tucker Oracle plane performance.

The highlight of our brief trip to the show were the two F/A-22 Stealth Fighters. I knew they were only on the show schedule for today so I was excited I had the opportunity to see them fly.

The F/A-22 is a multipurpose attack and fighter aircraft being built to replace the F-15s. According to an Air Force website "the F/A-22 has demonstrated the ability to 'supercruise', flying at sustained speeds of over Mach 1.5 without the use of afterburner."

With my air show fix fulfilled for the day I think I can make it through until tomorrow's show.

Posted at 2:47 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

View Your Tax Dollars at Work

airshow1.jpgA parade of your tax dollars will be on display on Saturday and Sunday at the 47th Annual Air & Water Show. As you have read there are great military performance teams like the Army Golden Knights and Air Force Thunderbirds, but those are not the only military aircraft expected to be flying over the Chicago shores this weekend.

The list provided by the City of Chicago stated that the line-up is subject to change and planes performing will be based on availability. Thought the line-up is expected to include attack aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt, Bombers such as the B-1 and B-52 bombers and fighters including F-14 Tomcats and the F-117 Nighthawk. Those visiting the show on Saturday are expected to see the Stealth F/A-22 Raptor.

I uploaded some of my photos of military aircraft that were arriving to the area on Thursday to a military gallery. All planes photographed are American except the bright red Red Bull Mig Magic (Mig 17-F).

Posted at 10:52 AM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 19, 2005

United States Air Force Thunderbirds

thunderbirds_animation.jpgThe Thunderbirds are the United States Air Force's demonstration team and they are schedule to perform Saturday and Sunday in the 47th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. I had the opportunity to get up close to learn more about them and enjoy viewing their F-16s in advance of the show. For a great animation of some of the Thunderbirds manuevers and to learn about their F-16s visit the Chicago Tribune website.

I had the opportunity to listen to Major Rusty Keen talk about some experiences with the Thunderbirds. Keen flys the number two plane. He discussed the importance of planning prior to an airshow. They use maps in advance of arriving at the location. Then they try to memorize all visual references within five miles of show center in the few days of practice prior to the show. He equates the air show to a large Vegas production were everything needs to be choreographed down the most minute detail.

thunderbird_5_small.jpgHe also talked about all that goes into preparing for an airshow. Even though there are only six pilots performing in the show the Thunderbirds utilize more than 65 people to prepare the planes and to manage the show. The had a giant

While viewing the Thunderbird F-16s I noticed that plane number 5 had it's number painted on the plane upside down. Keen explained that the pilot of plane five Maj. Scottie Zamzow spends almost 80% of the show upside down so it is only fitting that his number be painted so it can be read.

The Thunderbirds will roar over the Chicago Lakefront with their wings as close as 18 inches apart on Saturday and Sunday. I cannot wait to see them perform!

Posted at 7:41 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 18, 2005

Flying with the Lima Lima Flight Team

limalima1.jpgToday I had the opportunity to attend the press day for the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. Over the next few days I will post some stories about the day. I will dedicate this post to the highlight of the day: A Flight with the Lima Lima Flight Team.

I drove down to Gary International Airport where most of the planes are based during the air show. The only other time I had been to the Gary International Airport is when I did a brief landing there while flying in a Cessna 172. The 172 would have looked out of place today with the military jets and all the performance aircraft.

When I arrived I learned I would have a chance to fly with the Lima Lima Flight Team. It was hard containing my excitement. I had talked on the phone earlier in the week with John "Ripper" Rippinger about the team. In our conversation his enthusiasm for the T-34 jumped through the phone I new if I had a chance to go flying during the press day I wanted to go with Lima Lima. John suggested I fly in the plane that occupied the fifth spot in the six plane formation which would afford me a great vantage point for some photos. So he introduced me to the pilot of that aircraft Skip "Scooter"Aldous.

I felt comfortable with Skip as my pilot from the moment I met him. He was a gentleman who seemed to exude confidence. Maybe the fact that he has been flying for over forty years. Most of his flight time was in the U.S. Air Force where he built a nice resume of planes including: T-33, T-37, T-38, F-102, F-106, and the F-16 (same as will be seen this weekend flown by the Thunderbirds). Between his time in the military and after retirement he has flown over 6,000 hours and he has flown with Lima Lima since 2000. With approval of his credentials in place I was ready to strap myself into the T-34.

Literally, I strapped myself to the plane. The first thing I had to do was put on my parachute (yeah I said it I needed a parachute). Next I belted myself to the rear seat of the T-34. Bill went through the emergency bail out procedure but promised it would not be necessary. With the safety review out of the way we fired up the powerful T-34 and began our taxi to the runway.

The Lima Lima Flight consisted of six planes. The first four took off in formation then my plane and the sixth plane in the formation took off a few seconds later. We met up with the others creating a formation of six shortly after takeoff. It was amazing to see aircraft so close to our wing.

limalima2.jpgIt was a bumpy morning but as the planes flew over Lake Michigan we found smoother air. That is when the show really began. We started off with some steep banks which were amazing. Then we performed a maneuver called the Wifferdill where each plan in the formation one at a time would peal away by pulling back on the yoke and sending the plan into a nearly straight up climb. Then the pilot would rotate to the left until the nose of the plane went from a climb into a dive back towards the lake. During this move we experience 2.5 to 3Gs. It felt like I had two men standing on my chest. I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience more intense g-forces.

During some of the manuevers the planes would turn on the smoke machines which made for a cool site being in a plane at the rear of the pack. It was exciting to watch us whip through a tight turn following the trail of the flight in front of us.

On our return to the airport we did a fly over of the runway then performed a Pop-Top Break where each plane pulled back and to the side of the yoke pulling the plane out of the formation and rolling us back around the other dirction. That was followed by a tight turn to bring us onto final for landing. It was the quickest twenty minutes I have experienced in a long time.

I cannot wait to see the Lima Lima Flight Team perform this weekend in their beautiful yellow T-34s. I know they will put on an enjoyable show for all to see.

I put together a minute and a half long movie that includes some photos and video clips which you can be downloaded here in two sizes: 2mb .mov & 7mb .mov (higher quality). I also created a Lima Lima Flight Photo Gallery. Additionally, Chris Booker of the Chicago Tribune shot some great footage of our flight. The plane he is shooting during takeoff is mine.

August 15, 2005

Red Baron Pizza Squadron

red_baron1.jpgThe first time I saw the Red Baron Squadron® perform was last summer at the Blue Ash Airport Days in Cincinnati, OH. Flying their vintage Stearman biplanes they entertained the crowd with some close quarters formation flying while performing amazing acrobatic maneuvers. I was excited to see that the Red Baron Squadron is scheduled to perform at the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show this weekend.

The pizza brand and their air show performance squadron are named after the WWI "Ace of Aces" Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen better known as "The Red Baron". The German is famous for downing 80 enemy aircraft in World War I.

The Red Baron Pizza Squadron, which is the longest-running, non-military air show act, has been performing at air shows since 1984. The team includes eight pilots who have logged more than 48,000 flight hours. Their open cockpit Stearman Bi-Planes were built in 1941 and 1943 and have been slightly modified to allow for inverted flight. The Stearman was used by the Army and Navy as a training plane during WWII. After that it became a favorite of barnstormers and crop dusters.

I am sure the Red Baron Squadron will put on a great show this weekend.

Posted at 10:56 PM | Post Category: Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 14, 2005

Chicago Air and Water Show - Press Pass

airshow_press.jpgThis weekend, more than two million people will get kinks in their necks while looking to the skies in awe during the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. The air show is the oldest and largest free show of its kind. Starting mid-week, Chicago residents will begin to hear the roar of the air show participants' planes as they practice their manuevers over the lakefront.

This year is an exciting one for me and I requested press credentials so I could have access to meet with some of the pilots, get up close to their aircraft and for opportunities to take some great photos. I am proud to announce that according to the Public Relations Coordinator at the Mayor's Office of Special Events, I am the first blogger to ever receive press credentials for one of their events.

So this week I plan to bring you a variety of posts about the Chicago Air & Water Show including some interviews with some of the pilots and some great photos from the flightline. If there are questions you have always wanted to ask an air show pilot send them along and I will do my best to get your questions answered.

This years shows includes air show performances by:

I will tell you more about each of these acts later this week!

Posted at 12:24 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story