Friday, August 14, 2009

Zoom zoom

Today starts Chicago's annual "Air and Water Show". Along the lakefront from Grant Park to North Avenue Beach, the military puts on a show of airplanes. There are also bi-planes and Navy seals and fancy water craft. The airplanes are the thing, though. That's what people come to see.

I've gone once. It's you and a million of your best friends. But with the vast amount of the lakefront utilized, pretty much any spot from North Avenue south will get you a good view of airplanes.

One of the highlights is this group...

This is one of the older planes on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Carole and I visited this museum when I was out there in May.

The year Carole and I went to the show, they had an Apache helicopter, the Blue Angels, a brand new American Airlines 777 that flew roughly 50 feet off the water along the beach. I think there were some fighter jets. I remember bi-planes and one bi-plane with a wingwalker. The highlight was the arrival of a stealth jet. All the noise is behind the jet. We kept scanning the skies for it. When it does show, it appears on the horizon looking like a dark bird. Suddenly, it's 200 feet in front of you and blasting over your head.

The Blue Angels do their "usual" stunts. I put that in quotes because I can't imagine what they do is "usual". If, however, you have seen footage of them or been to an airshow where they have appeared, they do the same body of work; flying upside down, flying straight up, flying back-to-back, flying really fast at one another and missing by feet. It's amazing flying even if you've seen it many times.

If I was in the city between 11 and 2 today, I would get a taste of the show. It's tradition to fly some of the jets around the downtown on the Friday before. The air overpressure from the fly-bys rattles windows in the high rises and can spook people who aren't sure what's going on. Today is absolutely glorious and the weekend will be perfect for a show. Part of me wants to drive the Jeep up and down the drive tomorrow between 11 and 3, when the show is in full swing. Top down, warm summer breeze, blue lake... Maybe I'll weed around the air conditioner tomorrow. That needs to be done.

I remember the first time I saw precision flying. I was 5 or 6 years-old and we had gone to Clear Lake, Iowa to meet distant relatives. I have no idea why but the Air Force's Thunderbirds were at the lake. I can't remember if it was Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. I remember them flying low over the lake and then up into the air. The planes were gray except for one that was camouflage painted. The country had just come through the Bay of Pigs incident. Flexing military might was important. I remember going back to a cousin's house to take a nap after spending time on the beach at the lake and hearing this loud roar as airplanes flew over the house. As this is not a usual occurrence in Iowa, my dad went outside to see what was going on. He saw the jets and we were hastily bundled into the car and driven back to the lake where I have vague memories of jets flying over the water. In family movies, there isn't anything showing the jets. It's just video of the lake and, I think, my brother, Steve and myself.

Sometimes, participants in the Air and Water Show will park their airplanes at the DuPage County Airport, which is west of me. I'll get to see them fly over as they head toward the lake. I probably could go downtown and watch by myself, but it's so much more fun to grab a friend or two, pack a picnic lunch and park yourself either on the beach or in Lincoln Park and just watch.
Maybe next year.

Beverage: Lady Grey Tea


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