Wings over Waukegan as it was previously known took a break in 2015 after plans to expand into a two day event and host larger displays ran into problems with FAA regulations and some of the airports neighbours. Back as a one day event this year and rebranded as the Northern Illinois Airshow, this regional show located 45 mins north of Chicago served up a mixture of vintage trainers and jets with a taste of American razzmatazz thrown in.
With heavy rain passing over the airfield late morning, most of the pre display events including the dedication of the F-111 Aardvark which had been painstaking rebuilt following its road transportation from the now closed Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum had to be cancelled. As the 12 noon display start time approached, the clouds started to clear and the crowds made their way out of the hangar where most had sheltered and onto the flight line. One of the key features of Wings over Waukegan is how close the crowd can get to the action with visitors on the edge of the hot pits as aircraft taxi in and back from displays, separated only by a line of cadets.
The Show opened with a T28 Trojan and Douglas A-1 Skyraider flown in the missing man formation in rememberance of those who lost their lives in the tragic events on 9/11, who’s fifteen anniversary fell the following day. Next, warming up the crowd as the clouds cleared, the Dragon’s Fyre Jet Truck thundered down the runway spitting out flames and smoke from its jet powered engine.
Aerobatic displays came from Dave Scott in the Pitts S1S and Susan Dacy in the Boeing Stearman whilst the Aerostars in their Yak 52’s provided the formation displays in these highly manoeuvrable Russian trainers.
In only his second session as a airshow display pilot, Dave Scott learned to fly after an early interest in radio controlled models and now runs a hugely sucessful R\C flight school. After spending over 3000 hrs building his highly modified Pitts S1S he has won Gold and Silver medals at the US Nationals and the Mid America Championship often using techniques learned at the controls of an R\C aircraft. Following the aerobatics, in a somewhat reduced parade of trainer aircraft, the North American T-6 and a pair of Yakovlev Yak-52 took to the skies.
The main focus of Wings over Waukegan is undoubtably the warbirds and the Warbirds Heritage Foundation based on the far side of the Waukegan airfield provided their AD1 Douglas Sky Raider, A4 Sky Hawk, F86 Saber, L39 Albatross, L33 Shooting Star, P-51 Mustang and T28 Trojan for the show.
The jet parade featured the F86 Sabre, Aero L-39C Albatros, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and a Canadair CT-133 Silver Star flying left handed circuits of the airfield with a few topsides thrown in especially from the F86. Aero L-39 Albatros was a Czechoslovakia built aircraft used by Russia as the primary trainer for the MIG 29. NX239PW is owned by the Warbirds Heritage Foundation. The Canadair CT-133 Silver Star is the Canadian license-built version of the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer aircraft, in service from the 1950s to 2005. The Canadian version was powered by the Rolls-Royce Nene 10 turbojet, whereas the Lockheed production used the Allison J33.
The Aerostars three ship aerobatic demo team performing in their Yak 52TW, a former Soviet-designed, Romanian-built, WWII-type aerobatic trainer were up next followed by solo displays from the Douglas A-1D Skyraider, TBM Avenger and P51 Mustang Baby Duck. The Skyraider in its second outing of the day performed photogenic top side passes and a low straffing run complete with pyrotechnics exploding on the far side of the runway before landing and displaying to the hot pits crowd its wing folding capabilities. P51 Mustang Baby Duck performed a very aerobatic display complete with a series of high speed, low passes along the runway.
Showing off its high speed manoverability, highly effective against MIG-15’s in the Korean war, the Warbird Heritage Foundation’s F86 Sabre took to the air for its second appearance, performing a superb aerobatic routine.
The highlight of the show for any aviation enthusiast was the Legacy/Heritage Flight. Consisting of a unique four ship formation featuring the A-4 Skyhawk, P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck”, F86 Saber and the Grumman Avenger who flew a sweeping formation pass from left and right before a final pass from behind the crowd, separating at the end of the sequence. As if that wasn’t enough , closing the show was a very impressive solo display from Paul Wood in the A4 Skyhawk with a series of sweeping top sides, rolls and dirty passes, complete with arrester hook.
At $15 on the gate admission, free parking yards from the flightline and a front row seat to the hot pits this relativly small show is a must for any warbird enthusiast in the US MidWest. As my first US airshow, Wings over Waukegan certainly left me wanting to attend more Stateside shows.