By Meredith Lyons
Chicago Air and Water Show
North Avenue Beach
1600 N Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Dates: August 18 and 19
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As the oldest, largest and longest running free-air demonstration in the United States, the Chicago Air and Water Show is something that everyone in the area should witness at least once. Beginning right off the Magnificent Mile, North Avenue Beach is considered ‘Ground Zero’ for the event. It’s the best place to get a full view of all of the aeronautic goings on. You’ll want to get to the beach early because the show starts at 10 a.m. Grab a spot before the crowds start filtering in. Bring your own blanket and sunscreen, as well as plenty of water, and stake out a great viewing area for your party. Water is the only outside food or drink item that can be admitted but there will be food vendors along the beach to keep you satisfied throughout the show.
This year’s Chicago Air and Water Show headliners include the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs. The Blue Angels have been performing impressive aerial acrobatics in F/A-18 Hornets since 1946. This group is potentially the most popular of performers at the Air and Water Show with its famous diamond formation and precision flying. The elite team performs choreographed, high-altitude, aerobatic maneuvers and is known for its six-jet formations and impressive solo acts. The Golden Knights begin the performance by leaping out of an aircraft flying 12,500 feet above North Avenue Beach. The free-fall speeds can exceed 120 mph. While the team floats toward the beach, it will perform impressive precision parachute demonstrations. The Leap Frogs generally feature 14 jumpers. Like the Golden Knights, this group begins its fall at 12,500 and also reaches free-fall speeds between 120 and 180 mph depending on body positioning. At approximately 5,000 feet, the jumpers will release their chutes and begin performing their intricate canopy formations.
The civilian aircrafts set to perform in this year’s Chicago Air and Water Show include the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Kirby Chambliss, Sean D. Tucker & Team Oracle, The Red Bull Air Force, Dave Dacy in the Super Stearman, The Firebirds, Lima Lima Flight Crew, Matt Chapman Aerobatics and Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter.
The Aeroshell Aerobatic team has been performing for over 20 years, flying vintage aircrafts like the North American AT-6 “Texan.” Kirby Chambliss will be flying in the Red Bull Edge 540. Chambliss started flying at the age of 13 and became a commercial pilot at the age of 24. Eventually, he viewed the commercial gig as a day job to fund his true love of acrobatic piloting. Sean D. Tucker & Team Oracle have received all of the airshow industry’s highest awards. Tucker’s plane, the Challenger II biplane, was designed by his team and is a one-of-a-kind airplane able to perform any move Tucker asks of it. The Red Bull Air Force is an elite group of skydivers for Red Bull. Dave Dacy in the Super Stearman has performed in movies and commercials in addition to having over 30 years of experience in the airshow industry. The Firebirds will perform acrobatics that include radical gyroscopic tumbles and intense, head-on stunts that are sure to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The Lima Lima Flight Crew consists of six airplanes that demonstrate several complex formations for the entertainment of viewers below. Matt Chapman has been flying aerobatics since 1984 and has twice earned a rare spot on the Men’s Unlimited Aerobatic Team. The Unlimited category is the highest level of competition in aerobatics. Chuck “Malibu” Aaron is the only civilian helicopter pilot licensed to perform aerobatics in the United States and one of three licensed to perform dangerous maneuvers internationally.
This year’s featured military aircraft performing in the Chicago Air and Water Show include Heritage Flight, KC 135 Stratotanker Aerial Refueling, USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon, USAF T-38 Talon, USAF T-6 Texan, F-4, U.S.N. F-18 Super Hornet Demo, U.S. Coast Guard and Chicago Fire Department Air/Sea Rescue.
The Heritage Flight show is presented by the U.S. Air Force and includes the flight of vintage aircraft alongside the most up-to-date fighter aircraft. The KC 135 Stratotanker Aerial Refueling will be a demonstration of a mid-air refueling which is the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker’s main function. The USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon was originally designed as a day fighter but has evolved into a multirole, all-weather aircraft. The USAF T-38 Talon is used as a training jet for The United States Air Force (USAF) as well as NASA and some NATO pilots in joint training programs. USAF T-6 Texan is a single-engine turbo prop aircraft used by both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy for basic pilot training.
The F-4 is a highly-adaptable aircraft that was originally produced and used by the U.S. Navy but has since been adopted also by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force. The F-18 Super Hornet not only carries an internal 20-mm gun, but has the ability to carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons as well as additional fuel with up to five external fuel tanks. The U.S. Coast Guard is present even in the smaller areas of harbors, rivers and seas and will be performing a demonstration at the water show. Lastly, the Chicago Fire Department’s Air/Sea Rescue team will be showcasing their valiant abilities.
Millennium Park Garage
5 S Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
If you are unable to take public transportation, Millennium Park Garage is far enough away from the event that you won’t be caught up in crowds. The garage also offers free shuttle transportation to North Avenue Beach. It is located directly beneath Millennium Park so that if you so chose, you could take in the sights of the Cloud Gate Sculpture (also known as the Bean), the Crown Fountains and Lurie Gardens on your return from the show.
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Castaways Bar and Grill
1603 N Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Scan North Avenue Beach until you spot a building with the appearance of a beached ship and you’ve found Castaways. Located conveniently on North Avenue Beach, it’s your best beach location for food and alcoholic beverages. Castaways also hosts an exclusive viewing area from its rooftop. You can purchase tickets in advance for the event which generally includes breakfast, lunch, an open bar and seating.
2056 Lincoln Park W
Chicago, IL 60614
While you’re in Lincoln Park, it would be a shame not to stop in at RJ Grunts. The restaurant has been around since 1971 and has something for everyone. The restaurant offers traditional American fare such as burgers and sandwiches and is stocked with a full bar not to mention its famous salad bar. The casual atmosphere perfectly complements a day at the beach watching skilled pilots perform aerial acrobatics. The setting is intimate, the prices reasonable and the menu varied.
1816 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
The Hotel Lincoln is within walking distance of the Air and Water Show with private parking available. Pets are also allowed in the hotel, and as they are not allowed on North Avenue Beach, it would be good to have a place for them to stay should they travel with you. Rooms include free WiFi, a stereo with iPod docking stations, in-room safes and views of Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park. The hotel is close to public transportation and is a relatively inexpensive place to make a weekend stay out of the Air and Water Show event.
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Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.