August 14, 2014

Dreams Take Flight at Chicago Air and Water Show

airshow_ad.jpgThe Chicago Air & Water Show is back for another year and better than before. In 2013 the annual airshow, the largest free airshow in the country, was missing the fire power of the military acts as a result of sequestration. The return of military acts seems to have sparked greater interest in this year's show. Today at the media day for the event there was nearly double the media participation from 2013 and more than I have seen in the eight years I have covered the show.

Sean D. Tucker, a 20 year veteran of the show, said that this year he has seen bigger crowds at many of the shows he has performed at. Maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder. Anyone that works or lives in the Chicagoland area no doubt learned today that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are back, and I am sure they will help draw record crowds. They made several appearances over the city today as they made their spot checks in advance of Friday's practice performance and the two weekend demonstrations.

New to the Chicago Air & Water Show
Team AeroDynamix are making their first Chicago Air & Water Show appearance this weekend. The team which has been flying together for over ten years is currently the largest aerobatic team in the world with 12 aircraft. They fly a variety of models of RV Kitplanes including Rv-4, RV-7, RV-8 and RV-8A variations. Most of the pilots built the planes they will be performing in. You might mistakenly think that as home-built aircraft they would not be very sophisticated, but that seemed far from the truth.

I had the opportunity to fly with them today and the RV-4 I flew in was equipped with a Glass Cockpit and Synthetic Vision. A few minutes in this sporty little airplane and I realized why you see so many each year at AirVenture. It is an airplane that seems very fun. The team treated us to a sampling of their tight formation flying over the backdrop of the Chicago Skyline. I look forward to seeing their 15 minute demonstration this weekend.

Rosie the Riveter and the Blue Angels
blue_angles_rosie.jpgThere were a few neat stories behind the scenes at the media day event. One of which was 96-year-old Isabelle Settle, who played a Rosie the Riveter role, during World War II. As a 4'10" woman she was assigned the role of riveting wings and other tight spaces of C-54 Skymaster's at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Chicago. She has had a lifelong interest in aviation and airplanes.

Today she and her 78-year-old sister Ida were the guests of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Several of the pilots including Commander Thomas Frosch spent time with Isabelle talking about her role in WWII and genuinely thanking her for her service and presented her with framed poster signed by the entire team. After meeting with the pilots members of the Blue Angels maintenance team then brought her out to the aircraft and talked about the work they do to maintain the fleet of F/A-18's flown by the team. Isabelle loved the opportunity to share a few of her stories with the team.

Young Eagle Over Chicago
SeanTucker_Young_eagles.jpgWhile the Blue Angels were celebrating 96-year-old Isabelle, 17-year-old Malik Baker was running across the Gary Jet Center tarmac trying to secure a signature that would let him complete a dream experience of his own. Baker, a rising Junior in the JROTC program at Chicago Military Academy one an essay contest to receive a Young Eagles flight experience of a lifetime. A few minutes after I spotted him running off in search of his mother he returned with the necessary Young Eagles paperwork.

The Young Eagles, founded by the Experimental Aircraft Association, is designed to give children between the ages of 8 to 17 an opportunity to experience flight in a general aviation airplane while educating children about aviation. In 2013 Stunt Pilot Sean D. Tucker was selected as the Chairman of the organization that has flown more than 44,000 Young Eagle flights since 1992. In that rich history, never has a Young Eagles flight been accompanied by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Sean Tucker had arranged to fly Malik Baker along the Chicago Lakefront with a Blue Angels escort. After which Sean took Baker out to a practice area where he let him fly the plane and walked him through a variety of aerobatic maneuvers. Malik commented about his experience "I love it, I will never forget this day."

The Young Eagles offer flight experiences throughout the country, you can learn more on the EAA Website.

Living the Dream
Living_the_dream.jpgIt was another great Chicago Air & Water Show media day for me as well. I enjoyed flying the Archer III from Chicago Executive along the lakefront early this morning to participate in the event. Shortly after I arrived at Gary International the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was put in place along the lakefront to clear the airspace for the airshow performers. So after the show with the TFR still in place I needed to fly West of Gary and go north along the west side of O'hare. I of course did not perform any aerobatics flying back in the Archer, but I spent some time thinking about how blessed I am to be a pilot and have the opportunity to enjoy aviation.

Just over 10 years ago I decided to make my dream of flying a reality and earned my pilots license. Along they way I have enjoyed some amazing aviation adventures. All of which I never would have experienced if I had not been so moved by aviation at a young age that forged that dream in me. I hope if you are in the Chicago area you will come out to the Chicago Air & Water Show this weekend, bring your kids, neighbors or friends. You never know it just might inspire the next pilot!

Posted by at August 14, 2014 10:23 PM

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Posted by: EmilyRose at September 20, 2014 12:58 PM | Reply

They are always fantastic to watch the Blue angels in action. They are really amazing and professional. Everytime they make a show close to where I live, I try to be present.

Posted by: Alexia White at October 11, 2014 3:17 PM | Reply

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