2007 Air & Water Show Reaches Great Heights

By Todd McClamroch in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 17, 2007 11:06AM

2008_08_16_thunderbirds.gifThe most popular museum in the world is the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which sees nearly 9 million visitors come through its doors each year. So it is no surprise that Chicago's Annual Air & Water Show is the largest two-day spectator event in the United States, with audience numbers reaching nearly 2.5 million. The free annual event is back for its 49th edition and has a great line-up ready to thrill the crowds, providing the weather holds off.

The United States Air Force is commemorating its 60th anniversary this year and will have a wide array of planes performing in the Air Show, including attack aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt, bombers like the B-1B Lancer Bomber and B-52 Stratofortress, and fighters like the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-117A Nighthawk. Surely one of the best military demonstrations will be the F-22 Raptor demonstration. The F-22 is the military’s most technologically advanced fighter jet and rarely performs a full demonstration of the aircraft. But the crowd along the lakefront will get to see a full demonstration of its capabilities this weekend.

2008_08_16_thunderbirds_pilots.gifLikely the highlight of the show for many will be the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. This is the first year that there have been two women on the team, Major Nicole Malachowski (#3 plane) and Major Samantha Weeks (#6 plane). Major Weeks commented to Chicagoist, "It is a great opportunity for the two of us to be a part of this team and represent the 513,000 men and women who volunteer to serve every day. We are just exactly what you are going to see in your combat air forces around the world, there are women pilots in most fighter units." The Thunderbirds will deftly maneuver through the Chicago lakefront and skyline at speeds ranging from 500 miles per hour up to 700 miles per hour and at times be as close to each other as 18 inches.

We know from last year’s comments that many readers think the air show is simply a show of our military might. Chicagoist understands the air show is meant to inspire, educate and entertain, and the military only represents one aspect of the air show. Each year the Chicago Air Show features many great civilian performance teams. Chicagoist is looking forward to seeing the Firebirds in their first appearance in Chicago. The Firebirds fly three Extra 300S aerobatic planes in a fast-paced and high-energy performance. Another air show favorite is Sean Tucker and Team Oracle which always mesmerizes crowds by taking their aircraft to the edge of their performance capabilities and the laws of physics.

2008_08_16_lima_lima.gifChicagoist would like to give a special thanks to John "Ripper" Rippinger of the six-plane Lima Lima Flight Team and to Matt Losacker who pilots one of the Red Baron bi-planes for safely taking us up into the skies and back as we previewed the 2007 Air Show (oh, and yes, we did get a free Red Baron Pizza as well).

The air portion of the Air & Water show begins at 11 a.m. and runs to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and is free to the public. Show center is near North Avenue Beach, but the action can be seen as far north as Montrose Beach and as far south as Navy Pier. A sneak peak can be had on Friday as the teams will begin practicing as early as 10 a.m.

Our photos from the press day at the 49th Chicago Air & Water Show are on Flickr.