GARY, Ind. —  One of the lesser-known attractions for the Chicago Air and Water Show is called the KC-135 Stratotanker. Without it, the Thunderbirds would have a tough time appearing at the annual show this weekend.

In Gary, Indiana, Schaumburg native Patrick Burke said he is living out a childhood dream.

“I flew in the (Chicago Air and Water Show) last year. It was a surreal experience,” Burke said. “Watching it as a kid piqued my interest in aviation and sent me down the career path I’m on today.”

The KC-135 Stratotanker can provide long-range refueling — mid-air — for the likes of the Navy, the Marines and the Thunderbirds. 

The Chicago Air and Water show is scheduled for this weekend along the lakefront. The free show is the largest of its kind in the United States.

This year’s headliners include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.