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Gary airport hosts performers for Chicago Air and Water Show

Members mediwatch AeroShell aerobatic team fly by during mediday for Chicago Airshow held Gary Airport Thursday August 16 2012. |

Members of the media watch the AeroShell aerobatic team fly by during media day for the Chicago Airshow held at the Gary Airport on Thursday August 16, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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If you go

The 2012 Chicago Air & Water Show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as its focal point. Admission is free of charge. For more information, log onto www.explorechicago.org

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Updated: September 18, 2012 6:18AM



GARY — There’s a fair amount of downtime between maneuvers during an air show rehearsal, but when it takes only three minutes to get to the performance area from the host airport, it’s really not a bother.

Chicago Air & Water Show headliners the U.S. Navy Blue Angels spent Thursday afternoon at the Gary/Chicago International Airport fueling and running what they call “circles and arrivals,” or flights to the spot where they’ll entertain the masses this weekend along Chicago’s lakefront. The pilots run the orientation flights every show, said Andrew Johnson, U.S. Navy Mass Communications Spc. 2nd Class, to make sure they know the lay of the air space.

Once they’ve done those and maybe a couple demonstration flights, they’re ready for dress rehearsal Friday, when the real fun starts. People from miles around will get to see them in full formation, with at least one formation roaring through the sky at 700 mph and others where the planes are 18 inches apart from one another.

“We always fly in a formation of six,” said Johnson who, while having had full training on the F18 Hornets the Angels fly, rides in the back seat so he can take aerial shots of their performances. “And we’re not doing acrobatics; these are actual formations we fly during official maneuvers, so we’re demonstrating what the U.S. Navy and Marines are capable of doing and the pride and professionalism that goes into it.”

The Blue Angels were in Chicago two years ago, and the Gary Airport was its host airport then, too, Johnson said. Then, as now, the pilots are happy with the treatment they’ve received here.

“Everyone here (at the Gary Jet Center) has been accommodating and very helpful,” he said. “They’ve provided everything we need to have a successful show.”

The Gary/Chicago International Airport has been the host airport for the Chicago show ever since it signed the compact, Interim Director Steve Landry said. Other Chicago area airports could host it, but with all their commercial flights, it would be difficult at best.

“We host because we provide better access (to the center point, or show area). It’s just that simple,” Landry said. “It’s also another facet of the two cities working together.”

Plus, it gives North Lake County residents an extra treat as well, said airport marketing liaison James Ward.

“The remote exposure is good, because everyone can see all the teams fly in and out,” Ward said.



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