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2013 Chicago Air & Water Show: Sequester takes show back to mostly civilian roots in aviation

Thu, Sep 12, 2013

maxhphoto - Shutterstock.com, CHICAGO - AUGUST 16- Sean Tucker of Team Oracle flies in front of the Chicago skyline during the Chicago Air and Water Show Media Day on August 16, 2012 in Chicago.

The Chicago Air and Water Show Saturday and Sunday along the lakefront from Oak Street to Fullerton Avenue is the ultimate beach entertainment, according to authors Gerry and Janet Souter. It is symbolic of the menu of free summertime events and a highlight for people who already appreciate free access to the water.

“The beauty of it is it appeals to loads of different people in society,” Gerry said in a telephone interview with StreetWise. “You get to rub elbows with people you would never know, from different neighborhoods and communities.”

The Chicago Air and Water Show is the largest free admission event of its kind in the United States, with an annual audience of over two million people across North Avenue and Oak Street beaches. This year’s show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The Chicago Air and Water Show is a summertime favorite, providing exciting family entertainment in the skies above Lake Michigan,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in prepared material from the City, which presents the Show in cooperation with Shell. “Since its beginning in 1959, this event has grown into a spectacular display of aviation’s finest pilots in a unique setting, making it a destination for residents and visitors alike.” Sequestration in the federal budget has eliminated the national touring schedule for the alternating annual headliners such as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels as well as the Golden Knights parachute team (see Page 12), so the show is mostly going back to its civilian roots. City officials say there will still be plenty of daredevil pilots performing aerial stunts.

Organizers work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and various City departments to ensure safety. Pilots take off and land from Gary International Airport in Indiana and perform stunts over a restricted open area in the lake. All pilots and air personnel attend morning meetings to receive updated information about weather and other pertinent details. The show also employs its own air traffic controller who oversees downtown air space.

New acts this year include the All-Veteran Parachute Team, the British Sea Harrier Jet, the A-4 Skyhawk Jet Tac Demo and the Aerostars three-plane team.

The Souters, who are authors of “The Chicago Air and Water Show: A History of Wings Above the Waves” (The History Press 2010) attended their first show with their kids in 1964 because they lived close to North Avenue Beach. Gerry has been involved with aviation for over 30 years; he has flown in balloons, jet fighters and single-engine planes and has written about Canadian bush pilots, Arizona crop dusters and helicopter fleets on the Gulf of Mexico. Janet has joined him in balloon, helicopter and light aircraft flights. As president of their company, AvriI 1 Group, Inc., she edits their joint copy: they have written more than 40 books, including histories, biographies and young adult nonfiction.
The essence of their Air & Water Show excitement is aviation itself, Janet said.

“They get your heart racing. At one moment it looks as though they are about to sink into the water and then all of a sudden they just pull off another stunt.” She has flown with Sean D. Tucker of Team Oracle and says she would definitely do it again. According to Team Oracle prepared material, Tucker is the world’s only pilot to perform a triple ribbon cut. He flies through the ribbons at 220 mph in right knife edge for the first ribbon, then a left knife edge and finally inverted. The ribbons are only 25 feet off the ground and 750 feet between each set.

Mayskyphoto - Shutterstock.com, OCEAN CITY, MD MAY 15- Geico Skytypers performing the formation flying and simulated bomb runs on SNJ-2 famous WW II planes during the Ocean City Air Show 2010. Ocean City, Maryland, May 15, 2010

The first show was part of a 1959 “Family Day” celebration for children enrolled in the Chicago Park District’s day camp program at Lake Shore Park, located at Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Organized by Al Benedict, the park’s supervisor, the show’s budget was $88. Featured entertainment included a demonstration by the Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue, water skiers, a water ballet, games and a diving competition.

This year’s lineup includes:

AeroShell Aerobatic Team
Co-founded by Alan Henley and Steve Gustafson, this six-person crew has been performing at shows for over 25 years, generally in four-plane formations. The team flies the North American AT-6 Texan, which came out in 1938. The plane was designed as a basic trainer for the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) and was the primary training platform for airmen who would go on to fly fighter planes in WWII.

Jeff Schultes - Shutterstock.com, EL PASO – OCTOBER 21- Matt Chapman puts on an aerial display at Fort Bliss, Biggs Airfield, during the practice session at the 30th Anniversary Amigo Airsho on October 21, 2011 in El Paso, Texas.

Sean D. Tucker & Team Oracle
Tucker has been named as one of the Living Legends in Aviation, a National Aviation Hall of Fame inductee (2008), recipient of the Crystal Eagle Award, the General Charles E. Yeager International Aeronautical Achievement Award, an inductee at the 2001 USAF Gathering of Eagles, and one of the Living Legends of Flight. An air show pilot since the mid-1970s, Tucker works out more than 340 days annually in order to retain mastery of the extreme physical demands of each routine. “I like to think that I bring the fans’ dreams of flying into the plane with me and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in the cockpit. That’s why I train so hard to keep a finely tuned edge,” he says on the Team Oracle website.
Tucker’s Oracle Challenger III biplane weighs only 1,200 pounds but produces more than 400 horsepower. Its wings use eight ailerons – small hinged sections on the outboard portion of the plane that both generate rolling motion and bank the aircraft– instead of four. The tail of the Challenger III is modeled after those used on high-performance radio control airplanes.

Dave Dacy and the Super Stearman
The Boeing Stearman model 75 was used as a training plane in WWII and the model Dacy flies today has 450 horsepower. He has landed his aircraft on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago as part of an IMAX commercial for the Museum of Science and Industry. He has been performing in air shows in the USA and Canada since the ’70s and flies a stock 220 H.P. Stearman, a modified 300 H.P. Stearman and the German designed Bucker Jungmeister. As a professional and respected member of the Airshow Community, Dave is an ICAS (International Council of Airshows) ACE (Aerobatic Competency Evaluator.)

Lima Lima Flight Team
The Lima Lima Flight Team is composed of six airplanes that perform an impressive demonstration involving several formation configurations. The flagship T-34 is an early A model. It was veteran of USAF (United States Air Force) and CAP (Civil Air Patrol) use before being acquired by the team. The team stresses precision formation flying, and has performed in airshows all over the United States.

Kunal Mehta - Shutterstock.com, CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18- The Lima Lima Flight Team flies in their Beech T-34 Mentor trainers over Chicago Lakefront during the Chicago Air and Water Show on August 18, 2012 in Chicago, IL.

GEICO SkyTypers (NEW)
This retro airshow team utilizes six vintage SNJ-2 WWII aircrafts, performing precision maneuvers at airshows across the United States. They also create aerial smoke messages created by computer-controlled smoke lines. In 2007, the team performed the “missing man formation” an aerial salute formation, in honor of Kevin “Kojak” Davis, who was killed in a crash.

Nalls Aviation – British Sea Harrier Jet FA2 (NEW)
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft developed by Hawker Siddeley Harrier. In 1980, it entered service with the Royal Navy and became known as the “Shar.” It has served in the Falklands War, both Gulf Wars, and the Balkans conflicts.

Aerostars, Inc. (NEW)
The Aerostars are a precision aerobatic demo team who fascinate crows with graceful aerobatics in tight formation, breakaways and opposing passes, as well as inverted maneuvers. The team flies the Yak 52 TW, formerly designed by the Soviet Union, built in Romania, that hearkens back to WWII. At 400 horsepower, supercharged, nine cylinder radial engines, the Aerostars are a favorite among crowds all over.

Warbird Heritage Foundation (NEW)
The A-4 Skyhawk was a post Korean War U.S. attack aircraft that was meant to be flown off of aircraft carriers. Designed by Douglas Aircraft, it was intended to satisfy the U.S. Navy’s need for a jet replacement for the A-1 Skyraider. The USN (United States Navy) and the USMC (United States Marine Corps.) have all utilized the A-4’s lethal air strikes as far back as 1956. During the early years of the Vietnam War, the A-4 carried out some of the first U.S. strikes and also are believed to have delivered the very last bombs on the country.

Loic Youth, Torey Darin
and Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editorial Interns and
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief


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