Waukegan Airport is the home for a number of corporate aircraft. One of the regular visitors is a Gulfstream belonging to a man who has a home in the area and who is associated with Chicago area sports in a big way. However, the aircraft is wearing colors that are more associated with his college playing days in North Carolina. The result is possibly not the most attractive paint job you have ever seen. It does include the logo of the man in question in his trademark (literally) pose of Air Jordan. I once spent a portion of a day driving around the airfield with the Airport Manager. As we went through one of the electronic gates, he spotted the remnants of a cigar on the ground outside the gate. Apparently, this is one of Michael’s cigars. He is not allowed to smoke them when on the ramp so he drops them just before entering the area.
What seems like far too long a time had passed since I had last had a chance to head up to Waukegan to see the team at the Warbird Heritage Foundation. A nice day and a break in my schedule meant that I was finally able to resolve that shortfall. I headed up to Waukegan keen to see what sort of day was in store. As with any collection of older aircraft, the chances of much flying are relatively limited since the planes are usually in need of some sort of care. However, there were a few parked out on the apron when I got there.
Sean and Mike were busy taking care of them as I wandered up. The first thing Sean told me was that he had flown the Bird Dog that morning and that it was a shame I hadn’t been there. Indeed so! Telling me I have missed out on a great opportunity is just cruel! Never mind. I still haven’t seen the Bird Dog fly so it would have been good to see it let alone fly in it.
The project for the day was the T-28 Trojan. Not so long ago, this aircraft had an engine go bad. The chip warning light came on while Sean was flying it and, since he was close to the field, he made a speedy descent to land. The engine pretty much gasped its last as he taxied in. A rebuild later and now the plane is flying again. However, as with all engines after overhaul, it is going through a running in period. This also requires a different grade of oil and a change of oil was the task for the guys.
With the new oil in, the engine was run and the oil topped off. Then it was time for a flight. Jeff is a regular T-28 pilot and member of the Trojan Horseman and he came along to fly with Sean in the back seat. Putting hours on the airframe is the goal but not going too far from the field in case anything goes wrong. They did their duty flying patterns over the field and I grabbed some shots when I could. Most of the time they were quite far away but, with the moon traversing the sky, a couple of opportunities presented themselves for shots with the moon in the background.
I also grabbed some shots of the aircraft on the ground while they were off doing their thing. I haven’t got much before of the Bird Dog so spent a bit of time with it including getting some shots of the cockpit. Harsh exterior lighting meant a but of HDR was required for some of the shots but hopefully it isn’t too obvious! I have shot these planes a lot over time but there is always a chance for something new. Good to see you guys again and hopefully it won’t be so long next time!
If you are not a fast jet pilot, you might think that being one is close to the pinnacle of flying excitement. Everything else would seem rather tame by comparison. However, you might just be wrong. During the course of the Waukegan Airshow, Paul Wood of the Warbird Heritage Foundation hosted a number of the performers. The A-10 and F/A-18 crews both paid I visit while I was there and they all took a chance to go flying.
The aircraft of choice was the Boeing Stearman. Sean took then flying (including his friend Russell – a local guy originally). It is safe to say that everyone came back grinning like kids. They had a bunch of fun playing around with something totally different – not least of which is the open cockpit.
During the after show party, Stewie (who flies Hornets during the day) checked out a number of the collection’s other planes. He certainly looked like he would have taken a lot of things home with him if he had the chance!
The Saturday of the Waukegan show turned out to be a great one with excellent weather, some great flying and a lot of good people to hang out with. What more could you ask for? While Waukegan is not a big airport, the quality of the show has steadily grown and the ability to attract the Canadian display team, The Snowbirds, is a sign of how well they have done.
This year had a great line up for the show as well as plenty of great aircraft on static display. With some great light but the temperatures not being at all uncomfortable, it was a photographer’s dream. Just as well since there were a bunch of photographers there! The show was a mix of displays with sky divers, piston aerobatics, fast jets, vintage piston displays, wing walking, a jet bus, Heritage and Legacy flights from the Air Force and Navy and the Snowbirds to wrap it up.
I mentioned previously that the weather had been less impressive for practice day. In past years, I have had good weather for the practice but not for the show. This year it did it right for the visitors – and there were lots of them! The quality of the flying was excellent and, while some of the acts were familiar, some were new or at least not seen for a while. Seeing the Hornets instead of the Super Bug was a nice change and the display is quite different given the differing natures of the two aircraft.
The Snowbirds proved to be a great conclusion to the show. They flew a tight and polished display (with one minor exception) and did a good job of using the number of aircraft to keep something going on in front of the crowd. They mixed it up with some pairs and four ship crossing to keep everyone on their toes. I think they made a lot of fans. I hadn’t seen them for a while so it was good to see them again. (They were also a lot of fun at the party later!)
One of my favorite airshows is held at Waukegan. This show has a lot to offer. It has a good selection of performers, it is not so large that you feel exhausted even getting there, the display is not vast but it does flow well and a lot of people I know are involved. Also, it is close to home so covering several days is not a problem.
I actually had three days up at the show. I shall deal with the show itself in an upcoming post. Before that I headed up for the arrivals and for the practice. These were on the Thursday and Friday and the weather could not have been more different. Thursday was a lovely day. I got there just after the A-10s arrived which was a disappointment but I was there for the F/A-18s showing up as well as the Snowbirds, some of whom flew around for a considerable time before landing.
The practice show on Friday had a solid cloud layer all day. It wasn’t so bad that the practice could not go ahead but it certainly did not make for great photographic conditions. The practice was just for the main acts with the Snowbirds performing, both Hornets doing the demonstration and the USAF Heritage Flight involving an A-10. The rest of the performers were not involved. Since these displays required closing a local street, the aim was to keep the practice relatively short.
The results were not my best photos ever. With the forecast for better things on the Saturday during the show itself, there was a good chance that most of these would be consigned to the trash if Saturday worked out. However, there were some that weren’t too bad. As for Saturday, you will have to wait and see…
As mentioned in the previous post, the Collings Foundation were at Waukegan with their B-17, B-24 and P-51. Pete and I had headed up there to take a look at what was going on. This was the last day of the tour at Waukegan before they moved on to Palwauckee. They were supposed to be flying during the day and then departing in the early afternoon. Things were looking promising with the B-24 taking off while we were over at the Warbird Heritage Foundation hangar.
The P-51 was apparently being a little troublesome but was also scheduled to take someone on a ride while we were there. A friend of mine, Chris, volunteers for Collings and he was working with them that day so i took the chance to catch up with him. I give him regular abuse as he got a ride in P-51 Baby Duck once before when I was shooting it. I must be a lucky omen for him!
We needed to head back to Chicago for Pete to be ready for the return flight but the warbirds hadn’t yet departed. We decided to give them a few extra minutes. The B-17 had headed out first but the B-24 was obviously waiting to make sure the P-51 was away. Unfortunately, the engine was not looking too willing when it came to starting. Fortunately, a bit of ground power did the trick and they were away. As it turned out, Chris had made it in to the back of the P-51 so I got him in another one. I hope he recognizes my role in all of this!
Having a visitor is always a great reason to do something that would be fun anyway. My relative Pete was visiting Chicago for a day. He flies 747s for a large airline and Chicago was his destination for a change. Normally he is on longer sectors so we don’t get to see him as often as we might so this was a nice opportunity. Pete has appeared on this blog before when we went flying together in southern California a while back as recounted here.
Pete likes any aviation outings so wanted to know what I could show him while he was here. With Oshkosh still underway, a few of the interesting things that we might have tried were not going on. However, the Collings Foundation were bringing their tour through the area and were stopping at Waukegan so I thought that would be a good base for taking a look around.
We headed up to Waukegan to see what was going on. We actually started out by dropping in at the Warbird Heritage Foundation to see if anyone was around. I thought everyone would be up at Oshkosh but Herwig was there getting ready to take the T-2 up to AirVenture. Pete got a look at some of the aircraft and then Herwig departed in the Buckeye and we headed to the other side of the field.
The Collings aircraft were laid out and I shall tell more about them in another post. However, the airfield was not short of operations of a more civil nature. Plenty of business jet activity was underway so we had a lot to watch. Gulfstreams, Falcons, Challengers and a BBJ all made their way past us. With the sun shining plus warbirds ahead of us too, not a bad way to kill some hours.
Some days things are just looking like they will be good. The Warbird Heritage Foundation have their newly restored P-51 Mustang, Baby Duck, ready for flight. Before they can do too much with it, they need to get some hours on the engine. Consequently, they have had Vlado Lenoch coming across to fly the aircraft when possible to build the hours.
I knew that they had intentions to fly in the week before Christmas but I didn’t know exactly when. However, the weather was crap for the majority of the week. When I saw a good forecast for Friday and I had some free time, I decided to take a chance and head on up to see if anything was happening. If not, it was still a nice day to be out and about!
As it was, not only did the guess prove to be accurate, I got a bit luckier than even I had expected. Baby Duck was out on the ramp when I arrived which was a good sign. Indeed she would be flying and Vlado was coming to fly her. What is the easiest way for Vlado to get there? In his P-51 of course. Paul also was planning on flying one of the other aircraft that day as well. Bonus!
Vlado showed up and got ready to fly the Duck. I scooted across the field to be in a position for good light and angles and it wasn’t long before Vlado was taxiing out. A few other aircraft movements kept me amused while he headed out to the departure end. Before I had left the hangar, I had foolishly suggested to Vlado that he keep it low on departure. That was a pretty redundant thing to say. Vlado certainly kept the aircraft in a good position for me as he came past and he built up speed before turning it into height.
I headed back since we didn’t know how long they would be out. They actually landed away so were gone for quite a while. Chris Doud had been in the right place to bag the back seat so he was having a great time.
When they got back, Paul had a chat with Vlado about how the flight had gone and then got ready to take the T-2 up for a run. Vlado was also heading home in Moonbeam McSwine so I made a second run across the field to get the departures again. They ended up heading out close together. Both provided sporty departures so I was considering the day a very productive one.
I headed back to the hangar to await the return of the T-2. They broke back into the pattern and landed so some taxi in shots and then a few pictures of a very happy back seat passenger made for the end of the day. Time to head back to Chicago and enjoy all the traffic could offer on the last day before Christmas!
I did get a little side benefit when out shooting the A-4 at Waukegan. I made my way to the other side of the field to be ready to shoot the A-4 when it departed. However, I did give myself a bit of spare time to make sure I didn’t miss it. The result was a couple of extra aircraft.
One was the Yak 52 that Grant owns and flies. He was running it up when I got across the field. I told him where I was going to be so he would know when he departed. Sure enough he came close and he headed out. Hopefully we will be seeing more of Grant’s Yak in the not too distant future.
The second benefit was a corporate jet heading out. Waukegan has a lot of corporate traffic. If I had waited a few more minutes there was a Hawker 800XP heading out but I had to be back at the Hooch. However, I did get this fella as he departed. He used a fair amount of the runway which suited me well.
For those of you that have hung around here for a while, hopefully there is more than one of you, you will know that I have spent a lot of time shooting with the Warbird Heritage Foundation up at Waukegan. If you saw my recent post on the T-6, you will know that I was up at Waukegan to see the A-4 fly again. The A-4 is a great little jet and one that I love to see in action.
The aircraft has some new stores fitted underwing. These are practice bomb carriers and they add to the options for displaying the aircraft. They certainly look good. The weather was great on the day I went up and Paul wanted to get up and flying as quickly as he could. He had other things to get to later in the day so getting the jet up and running was a priority. First it required an engine run and a leak check after the servicing and then it should be good to go.
The engine run went well and a couple of minor things were noted and fixed. Then it was time to fly. I decided it would be best to head across the field. The hangar is north of the runway and doesn’t have the best light angle for the aircraft taking off. Fortunately, the wind, while light, meant that the jet would be departing heading in to the light so, from a position by the other hangar (the maintenance hangar is called the Bunker) should provide a good view.
This worked out well, Paul certainly helped by keeping the jet relatively low as he transitioned the gear up. I got some nice close shots as he came by and then he pulled up into a steep climb out. Certainly great and worth the trip – the T-6 flight was a cherry on the top!