by Larry E. Nazimek
The 57th annual Chicago Air & Water Show, one of the largest free admission events of its kind, was held along Chicago’s lakefront, August 15-16, 2015. Some two million spectators, in buildings and along the lakefront, took in the show. Aircraft fly out of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, except for the Chicago Fire and Police helicopters, based at Chicago’s Calumet Park.
Unfortunately, this year’s show will be remembered for the tragedy that took place at Saturday’s show. In a combined jump with the Army’s Golden Knights and the Navy’s Leap Frogs, SFC (promoted posthumously to MSgt) Corey Hood and SO1 Timothy Holland collided at approximately 120 mph while performing a “bomb burst.” Hood, a 14-year Army vet having served five tours in Afghanistan/Iraq, was knocked unconscious. His reserve parachute deployed automatically, but instead of landing on the lakefront, he drifted to the west until he struck a high-rise, after which he fell 20 stories to the ground. He went into surgery, but died the following day. Holland, who was able to land on target on the beach, sustained a broken leg, but was later able to speak with reporters. There were no parachute acts at Sunday’s show.
The Breitling Jet Team performed as a part of their debut tour of the U. S. The French team consists of seven L-39 Albatros jet fighters flown by highly experienced former military pilots. They describe their act as a European type of performance, emphasizing precision and elegance. One surprise the team had was the release of flares in their final pass toward the crowd.
Other acts this year included the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Aerostars in their YAK-52TWs, Dave Dacy in his Super Stearman, Firebirds Delta Team, Matt Chapman, Sean D. Tucker/Team Oracle, Team AeroDynamix 10-plane formation, and Bill Stein, whose performance was enhanced by the paint job on his Zivko Edge 540, which makes it appear to change colors. The Warbird Heritage Museum Foundation’s A-4 Skyhawk also performed an impressive demonstration equal to that of any modern-day military jet performance.
The “water” part of the show included a Coast Guard boat and an air/sea rescue with the Chicago Fire Dept. and Police helicopters.