I have spent time with Art Nalls and his Team SHAR at various events over the years but it had been a while since we had last crossed paths. Therefore, it was good to see Art and the guys again at Gary for the Chicago Air and Water Show. This year has been a busy year for the team. Not only have they got themselves well established on the show circuit but the lack of military participation has meant a relatively modern fast jet is in high demand to fill the gap left by the normal front line fighters. Add to that, the difference that a Harrier brings and you can see why their calendar has been filling up.
I caught up with Art early in the day and ended up running some errands with him for a while. However, I didn’t want to miss other acts on the ground so left them for a while to do some other stuff. I did get back later in the day and chatted to the guys for a while and watched the launch and recovery. With the jet on the ground, I also took the time to get some shots of it while no one was working on it. On the final day of the show, I did head back to the beach to try and catch it in action too.
It was, as always, great to hang out with the team. They did a great job and closed out the show nicely. I hope it isn’t as long before I next see them!
Middle of August means the Chicago Air and Water Show is back. This year’s show, like all other shows in the US, was always going to be a bit different since the US military was not going to be taking part. That means a shift in emphasis from normal with a lot more civilian acts. With no headlining team this year (normally the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds alternate), there was a question as to whether the attendance would be significantly reduced. It is a free show so you might think it isn’t that big a deal but the sponsorship is important and that requires people to show so it was going to be interesting to see how things shaped up.
There were some jets to add some noise and speed to the proceedings. Art Nalls brought his Sea Harrier and Paul Wood brought the A-4 Skyhawk. Both displayed twice on the show days to add a hint of military jets to things. Of course, these are not operational fighters and are nursed a little more carefully than a front line jet which the pilot can swap for another if he breaks anything. However, they still are able to up the tempo a bit.
I mixed my time between the flying on the beach in Chicago and Gary airport where everyone was staging from. It is fun to get the mix of the actual displays and the activity around launching and recovering the planes. The shots are a mix of those. I got to spend a lot of time with Team SHAR and will have a separate post about that in due course. From what I saw and heard, the attendance on the beach was pretty strong, if a little down on previous years. It looks like the show does indeed go on!
Only a short distance south of Chicago across the state line to Indiana is Gary. They hold an air show there every year that is over the lake along one of the beaches. For one reason or another, I have never been to this show. This year was expected to be no different originally. I had decided against going since the attendees list – while good – was a little shorter than in previous years. It was also supposed to be unbelievably hot!
My buddy, Joel, was going and he offered me a ride down if I wanted to go to the twilight show they hold on the Friday evening. I figured I would go since the opportunity was there so we headed down. Although not part of the twilight show, the USAF Thunderbirds were performing on the Saturday and Sunday and were scheduled to practice on the Friday afternoon, not long before the twilight show started. Therefore, we got a full show plus whatever else they planned to check out as part of their practice efforts.
Then we got the displays for real. The heat was pretty intense but the performers did not allow this to affect their displays. Unfortunately from a photography point of view, there was quite a lot of haze which hurt the visibility and the wind had died down which meant that smoke from the displays did not disperse quickly and could obscure the following passes in places. This meant that the photo opportunities had to be grabbed when they could.
The hope was that, as the sun dropped down, the golden light would arrive and it would be possible to get some more unusual shots than would be the case at a normal day show. Unfortunately, while this worked a bit, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. The sun sets a long way north at this time of year so, as it got lower, it got further behind the performers. Not back lighting but certainly not illuminating the front of the aircraft. Also, the haze I mentioned before meant that the dropping sun became more obscured so the strong evening light never really came along and we got something more diffused and weak.
This was a shame but not the end of the world. The show was still enjoyable and the people I was there with made it all the more fun. Thanks to the team at South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority for hosting us. I hear that the two main show days at the weekend were very popular and went well.