For years, folks in the Chicago office had been telling me about the Chicago Air & Water Show and how the week before the show, the demonstration team (either the Navy Blue Angels or the Air Force Thunderbirds) would be practicing, zooming around the city and outside our building at the south end of the Loop. So I purposely re-arranged my work schedule a bit so that I could work the Thursday/Friday and then stay the weekend in Chicago for show and then work Monday and Tuesday. I also brought out my good camera gear, including Nikon D90, the 70-300mm lens and the 170-500mm lens.
On Thursday, after arriving in Chicago, the weather was a bit ugly, with rain and low clouds, so no one was practicing. On Friday late morning, I had just walked out of Brooks Brothers (the TSA x-ray ate my belt at Westchester Thursday morning), when a thunderous jet roar went over. I quickly headed back to the office and as I walked in, the Thunderbirds were just practicing some runs around the city to familiarize themselves with landmarks. I grabbed the camera and shot a number of photos from the conference room window as the Thunderbirds (often with #7, the public affairs officer, in trail) did a number of passes. Unfortunately, while they were still practicing, I had a lunch scheduled with someone and had to leave the office. All during my walk to the restaurant, jets were screaming overhead and around the buildings!
Saturday morning dawned with some heavy rains and low clouds, so I was a bit nervous whether the airshow would happen. But I got my coffee and got on the Brown Line train to head up to North Avenue beach which was show center. Likely because of the weather, it wasn’t crowded at all and I got a nice spot on the beach up close to the water, for an unobstructed view. I set up my disposable poncho as a ground cloth and only had to pop up the umbrella for a few minutes for passing showers.
The clouds were still a bit too low for the initial part of the show with mass parachute jumpers, but a couple of jumpers brought down the American flag as the National Anthem played. Then the show started. Rather than do a play-by-play, the list of performers are here (not necessarily in the order of performance, as that changed between Saturday and Sunday):
- US Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights
- US Navy Parachute Team, Leap Frogs
- F-35 Heritage Flight (with P-51 Mustang)
- US Navy F-18 Hornet
- C-130 Hercules (CT Air National Guard)
- US Coast Guard MH-65D Dolphin
- US Navy A-4 Skyhawk
- Chicago Police and Fire Departments Helos & Boats
- AeroShell Aerobatic Team (AT-6 Texans)
- Aerostarts (Yak 52)
- Sean Tucker/Team Oracle (Oracle Challenger III)
- Bill Stein (Edge 540)
- Firebirds (Extra 300)
- Matt Chapman (Extra 330)
- Susan Dacy (Super Stearman Model 70)
- US Air Force Thunderbirds (F-16)
Sunday was a much nicer (and therefore MUCH more crowded day out at the beach) though with still a few low hanging clouds at the beginning of the show (you can see from the second day with the flyover of the C-130 (from CT Air National Guard!) and one of the demonstration teams flying just over low thin clouds before the jumpers came out.
I took 1800+ photos over two days (I ended up buying a second 8 gig SD card for the camera just to be safe). I whittled down to 400 photos, trying to be ruthless and then to a final 93 for the slide show/album. (I figured out how to do a slide show by accident on the flight home from Chicago, including putting some music behind it.)
Overall it was a GREAT show, both days. I really had a good time and big kudos to the organizers and Chicago PD on flawless logistics!
If I can get to a photo album, I'll do it, but for the time being, below is a link to the YouTube slideshow movie I created (sorry, no music this time). I suggest setting to full-screen and, in the settings button, you can speed up to 1.25 or 1.5 if you'd like it to go faster. The first 6 shots were from my office window (seriously!), then the rainy Saturday morning and the day's activity. Sunday starts with the photo of the C-130 above thin clouds surrounded by four airplanes and a jumper already in the air.
A couple of weeks later, on Labor Day weekend, Michiko and I drove (MISTAKE, I know!) to the New York Air Show at Stewart International Airport (KSWF) to see the Thunderbirds again. We should have flown and saved ourselves a LOT of headache. A tropical storm (Hermine?) was working her way up the Eastern Seaboard, so most people came out on the Saturday, anticipating that the Sunday show would get washed out. It was a ZOO, with piss-poor logistics, starting from parking (very few signs directing folks the right way (and most of the very few signs looked like they were scribbled last minute when organizers realized they had a cluster-ahem on their hands)), to bus queues for a 200-yard trek (because of an active taxiway to the terminal and one of the FBOs), to long snaking lines for tickets and bag checks/security wanding as well as incredibly long/slow food lines. We finally got in about 15 minutes before the show started and found seats at the far east end of the show line. (We didn’t even DARE the massive crowds towards show center.) I got food before the show started, which was highly overpriced and cold (Michiko’s hot dog was quite literally cold in the center), with no carrying trays, etc.
The airshow itself was pretty good with a number of single performers and the Geico Skytypers as well as the Thunderbirds. https://airshowny.com/air-show-performers/ During the Thunderbirds segment, #4 jet developed a squawk and he returned for a precautionary landing, taking up the backup jet a few minutes later to rejoin the team (so you’ll see some photos of a three-man formation of the Thunderbirds, which is unusual.) For whatever reason, my photos didn’t come out quite as clear/nice as some of the Chicago shots. Besides my handholding a long lens, we were also far off of show center and had about 8 rows of people in front of us. The photo album/slide show does have some decent shots though.
Below is the YouTube link for the iMovie slide show I created (again, no music, sorry). I suggest setting to full-screen and, in the settings button, you can speed up to 1.25 or 1.5 if you'd like it to go faster.
If we ever do the show again, we’ll fly up and be able to walk over from the FBO. And we’ll bring our own sandwiches/snack items rather than chance the food.