CHICAGO — The Thunderbirds soared through the Windy City skies Friday morning, kicking off rehearsals for the Chicago Air and Water show this weekend.
The largest show of its kind in the country will return to the lakefront this weekend with more than one million people expected to attend.
From 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, as well as the Army Golden Knights, practiced over Lake Michigan.
Pilots of six F-16 Fighting Falcons will perform maneuvers in a variety of formations overhead — some as close as 18 inches from each other mid-air.
“There’s a few maneuvers in particular where it’s just kind of mind-boggling, so when you say 18 inches apart, I’d be remiss if I say it’s not 18 inches wingtip to wingtip, that’s 18 inches wingtip to canopy, so we’re actually overlapping,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kaity Toner, public information officer for Thunderbirds 12.
The aircrafts participating in the air show will take off from the airport in Gary, Indiana and resume practice from 2 to 3 p.m.
A special aircraft, the ‘Stratotanker’ is used to refuel other planes mid-air, capable of offloading six and a half thousand pounds of fuel per minute.
Schaumburg native, Patrick Burke, is piloting the aircraft.
“I was fortunate to fly in the air show last year. It was just a surreal experience because sitting and watching the show as a kid piqued my interest in aviation and led me down the path, I’m on today,” Burke said.
The main events run from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Attendees are advised to plan ahead and pack essentials, including sunscreen.