A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE OF THE 2019 CHICAGO AIRSHOW
The 2019 and 61st annual Chicago Airshow was held on August 17th and 18th 2019 over the North Avenue Beach, Downtown Chicago. This annual free event draws an estimated 2 million people to the Chicago Lakefront! This makes the Chicago Air and Water Show the largest free event of its kind in the United States. All of the airshow performers use the Gary/Chicago International Airport, located in Gary IN, and a short 25 miles from airshow center. This is where we take a closer look at some of the military performers of the 2019 airshow, but from ramp side at the Gary International Airport.
The United States Army was represented by the Golden Knights Parachute Team and their newly delivered Bombardier C-147A, serial number 15-01609. The C-147A replaced the C-31A Troopship in 2019, and is based on the popular civilian De Havilland Dash8-300 airliner. The Golden Knights will eventually operate a pair of C-147A’s.
The United States Marine Corps was represented by a pair of Boeing MV-22B Osprey’s serving with VMMT-204 (Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204) and is better known as the “Raptors”. This unit is based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) New River North Carolina, and falls under the command of Marine Air Group (MAG) 26, and is responsible for training both Marine Corps and Air Force pilots and maintainers. MV-22B Osprey serial number 168643 wears full squadron colors and was a welcome sight.
The United States Air Force Air Combat Command had two of its four single ship demo teams on hand. The first being the “Viper” Demo Team flying the Lockheed Martin/General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon. Viper Demo is based at Shaw Air Force Base South Carolina, which is located outside of Sumter South Carolina. The 2019 Viper Demo Pilot and Team Commander Major Garret “Toro” Schmitz are currently assigned to the 20th Operations Group based at Shaw.
The Raptor Demo Team was also part of the 2019 airshow with a pair of Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors from the 1st FW (Fighter Wing). The 2019 Raptor Demo Team Pilot and Team Commander Lieutenant Colonel Paul “Loco” Lopez has flown the Raptor since 2011 and just completed his 2-year assignment as Demo Pilot and Team Commander in 2019.
The United States Air Force Air National Guard had both Tanker and Fighter/Attack aircraft at the 2019 show. The 104th FS (Fighter Squadron), based at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River Maryland had four Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II’s at Gary. The 104th Fighter Squadron is a descendant organization of the 104th Observation Squadron established in 1921. The 104th is the oldest unit in the Maryland Air National Guard, having over 90 years of service to the state and the nation.
The 126th ARW (Air Refueling Wing) had a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker with “Louisville Slugger” nose art at Gary. The 126th Air Refueling Wing is based at Scott Air Force Base, located outside of Belleville Illinois. The 126th is a descendant organization of the World War I, 108TH Aero Squadron established in August 1917. The 126th has flown the Boeing KC-135 since 1976, after transitioning from the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter.
The United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Blue Angels were co-headliners in 2019. The Blue Angels were formed in 1946 and have flown the Boeing FA-18 “Legacy” Hornet since 1986. The Blue Angels plan on transitioning to the FA-18 Super Hornet for the 2021 airshow season.
The Royal Air Force Red Arrows were the other co-headliner of the 2019 airshow, with Chicago being one the 20 stops on their 2019 North American Tour. A total of 108 Royal Air Force personnel brought the teams 12 British Aerospace Hawk T-1’s to Gary. The British Aerospace Hawk is a two-seat advanced trainer, with the Red Arrows flying the Hawk since 1979. The Red Arrows spent eleven weeks in North America with this being the biggest visit to the United States and Canada in eleven years.
The Royal Air Force Red Arrows used the Airbus A-400M Atlas as its support aircraft for its North American Tour. The Royal Air Force introduced the A-400M into service in November of 2014. The A-400M is a tactical airlifter designed to replace older Transall C-160’s and Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules airlifters. The A-400M can carry heavier loads than the C-130 and is able to use unprepared landing strips, perform aerial refueling, and medical evacuation in addition to its transport role. The Royal Air Force will eventually operate a fleet of 22 aircraft.
The weather was less than ideal with low visibility and rain which did impact the show both days. This weather did keep the civilian performers grounded for the most part on both days. Despite of this, the time spent at Gary International Airport was well spent and provided a different view of this airshow. I would like to thank the Gary International Airport Fire Department, and the Chicago Airport Watch Program for this unique opportunity. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”