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 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!