Eyes to the skies
BY ANNIE ALLEMAN For Sun-Times Media August 14, 2013 6:04PM
The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flies by the skyline Thursday. They will be participating in the annual Chicago Air and Water show this weekend. | Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times
Updated: September 17, 2013 8:00AM
This year’s Air and Water Show
will look and sound a little bit different.
Because of government budget cuts, military planes and boats will not be participating. That means no U.S. Navy Blue Angels or U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, no F-16, F-18 and F-22 fighter jets, and no Golden Knights, the U.S. Army’s parachute team.
Not a problem, says John Trick, manager of the Chicago Air and Water Show. He knows that people are going to miss the precision flying, intricate stunts and the heart-stopping noise the big military guns provide, but the show must go on.
And go on it will, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the center point.
“The military is only one portion of the show; we have real strong civilian acts,” Trick said. “We’ve brought more [civilian] acts in to supplement what we’re not going to have military-wise this year. If you put it all together with the beautiful weather and you’re down at the beach, people are going to be happy and it’s going to be an enjoyable weekend for them.”
New this year is the All-Veteran Parachute Team, an inspiring team of 10 active or retired military parchutists. New also is the British Aerospace Sea Harrier Jet, a Vietnam-era Skyhawk jet, the Aerostars aerobatic team, an A-4 Skyhawk jet and the Geico Skytypers flying six vintage WWII aircrafts. Expect also the return of the popular AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Sean D. Tucker and Team Oracle, Lima Lima Flight Team, the Firebirds Delta Team, Matt Chapman Airshows, Bill Stein Airshows and Dave Dacy in the Super Stearman.
Returning also is pilot Chuck Aaron in the Red Bull Helicopter. He is the only helicopter pilot in the United States that is certified by the FAA to do aerobatic air shows. His act includes loops, rolls, split F’s, back flips, vertical climbs and vertical dives, and rolling climbs and rolling dives.
“A full-on aerobatic routine that you would see an airplane do, I do in a helicopter,” he said.
He got started almost a decade ago, when Red Bull challenged him to do aerobatics in a helicopter. He said it couldn’t be done. But the thought niggled at him, and he decided to give it a shot. It took him a year and a half to modify his helicopter and get FAA approval for both his helicopter and himself.
“Red Bull has given me enough time and money to process this, methodically think it out, and to mechanically make the changes to make this a safe operation,” he said. That’s probably why he is the only guy doing this — it’s very expensive to completely modify a helicopter, he said, and then it can never be returned to normal service.
The back flip is his personal favorite maneuver to do, he said. He takes his helicopter up to a hover and then flips over backwards.
Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.