Chicago Air and Water Show

August 17, 2007

49th Chicago Air & Water Show

thunderbirds1.jpgIt is that time of year again in Chicago where the skies rumble for the return of the Chicago Air & Water Show. This year is the 49th year of the free event that is expected to draw nearly 2.5 million people making it the largest two-day spectator event in the United States. A great line-up of military and civilian aircraft will be participating in this years event.

This is the third year that I have been invited down to the media day at the Gary Jet Center at the Gary International Airport. In 2005 I had my first air show flying experience flying with Lima Lima. Last year I had a fun flight with Aeroshell Aerobatic Team. This year I was lined up to fly with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron in one of their Stearman bi-planes. I had flown in a Waco bi-plan before but was looking forward to getting inverted in the Stearman. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards as the cloud cover and haze did not give a high enough ceiling for acrobatics.

redbaron1.jpgInstead we flew in formation out over Lake Michigan and did a few steep turns. The most exciting part of the flight was when we returned to the airport to land and my pilot made a steep diving turn towards the runway and the wind really blew through my hair and I could feel the joint pull of the strong Stearman engine and gravity, I could imagine how much fun doing acrobatics in an open cockpit plane must be. I might have to try again with them next year.

About an hour later there was an opening in the back seat of one of the T-34s flown by the Lima Lima Flight Team so I jumped at the opportunity to get back in the air with Lima Lima. They are a really nice group of men that love flying and demonstrating precision flying. The ceiling was a little better and we got to do some fun performing Wifferdills and Pop-Top Breaks.

Shortly after returning from this flight the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds arrived from their survey flight over the Chicago. I enjoyed watching them land and taxi in. I had the opportunity to talk to the two female pilots in the team for an article I posted on My photos from the day are available on Flickr

As for this weekend I am hoping the weather holds out and we get two rain free days with unrestricted visibility and high ceilings. I enjoy all the air show acts but this year I am anxious to see two new acts for me, the Firebirds & the full demonstration of the the F-22 Raptor.

August 21, 2005

Sunday at the Chicago Air and Water Show

goldenknights.jpgOn Saturday, two Thunderbird F-16s grazed wings while in the diamond formation, causing a missile rail from one of the planes to fall into Lake Michigan. This lead to the demonstration being ended early so all the planes involved could safely return to the Gary International Airport. In addition, it was determined the Thunderbirds would not participate in Sunday's Air & Water Show.

I am glad to say the 47th Annual Air & Water Show was still a success without the Thunderbird performance. The crowd enjoyed demonstrations from all the branches of the armed forces in addition to the great civilian demonstration teams.

One of my favorite performances today was by Sean Tucker flying the Oracle biplane. Sean performed some amazing maneuvers that as a pilot had me wondering how he pulled them off. The U.S. Army Golden Knights were also very entertaining. The skydivers jumped from 10,000 feet descending at 120 MPH towards the beach where they each landed within a small ten foot circle.

aeroshell.jpgDuring the show I saw a few fun sights. The first, a child running around playing with his two diecast airplanes. It is airshows like this that will inspire the future pilots that will defend our country, fly us commercially and enjoy the benefits of general aviation. Secondly, I saw an elderly gentleman with his retired Air Force hat on who look as content as can be watching the AeroShell Aerobatic Team in their WWII trainers. From what I can tell all that made it out for the show enjoyed it.

I uploaded some photos into a gallery of images from Sunday's Chicago Air & Water Show.

Posted at 6:59 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

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