When is the 2019 Chicago Air and Water Show? Do I need tickets? What’s the best way to get there? You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
Over the weekend, at least 1 million people are expected at lakefront beaches to watch aerobatic feats in the sky and simulated rescue operations in the water this weekend. Here’s a preview.
Time and date: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 18.
Location: North Avenue Beach is the show center, but good sightlines can be found at Ohio Street Beach and along the lakefront from Fullerton Avenue south to Oak Street Beach.
Admission: Free. No tickets required.
Getting to North Avenue Beach
Pedestrians: Bridges, tunnels or underpasses at Fullerton Avenue, Division Street, Scott Street, Chicago Avenue, North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach provide easy access to the lakefront and North Avenue Beach.
Public transportation: Extra service and capacity will be provided throughout the weekend. Use Regional Transportation Authority’s Trip Planner tool to map your route. It’s recommended passengers purchase tickets ahead of time or through the Ventra App to avoid long lines.
Chicago Transit Authority and getting there by ‘L’: The CTA will provide extra service on Blue, Brown, Green and Orange lines as well as No. 72 North Avenue and No. 151 Sheridan bus routes.
Metra: Extra service will be provided on five of Metra’s 11 lines with expanded passenger capacity, too, during the weekend. Alcohol is prohibited all day Saturday and Sunday. Bicycles might not be accommodated on Saturday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 18.
Bike: Bringing your own bike? Bikes are allowed on the beach, but may not be ridden. Renting one? Divvy’s valet service will be at these locations both days: Lake Shore Drive and North Boulevard; Oak Street and Michigan Avenue; Navy Pier (Grand Avenue and Streeter Drive) and Theater on the Lake (Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive).
Parking: No parking is available at show central. Millennium Garages’s four, underground locations offer discounted online parking packages for purchase in advance and a free shuttle to and from North Avenue Beach.
Where to watch and listen
Prime spots: The lakefront from North Avenue Beach south to Navy Pier. Nearby parks and playing fields are generally less crowded.
At the airport: Aircraft involved in the show — including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Red Arrows — will take off from the Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary. The city of Gary will host a car show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days of the show in the airport’s parking lot. General admission is $5. Children under 8 years old are admitted free of charge. Proceeds will go toward production of an air show in Gary in 2020.
Radio: Play-by-play coverage will be on WBBM-AM 780 and 105.9 FM from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Livestream: Video will be available at wbbm780.radio.com.
Announcer: Herb Hunter
The voice of the weekend’s activities belongs to a man who is just as comfortable in the cockpit as he is calling the show, which he has done for more than 30 years. Hunter is a former military pilot and United Airlines captain who flew the KC-135 here in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
What to bring to the beach
Forecast: Check WGN-TV’s Weather Center for the latest conditions.
In case of severe weather: Temporary shelter from rain, high winds, lightning or hail is available at various nearby underpass (Diversey Harbor, Fullerton Avenue and LaSalle Drive) and pedway locations (Division Street, Scott Street, Oak Street and Chicago Avenue).
Vertical green signs with white letters and numbers called pole markers are attached to all light poles along the lakefront.
Lost? Injured? Witness criminal activity? Look up, call 911 and give the letter/number on the pole nearest your location to help first responders locate you. Or, use the pole marker to let friends and family know where you are.
Special access viewing area: Available on a first-come, first-served basis at the north end of the North Avenue Beach House viewing stands to those who cannot stand during the performance; use wheelchairs, walkers or crutches; are deaf or hard of hearing and need to be near the sign-language interpreter; and those who are blind or have visual impairments.
Headliner: U.S. Navy Blue Angels
More than 100 crew members — including enlisted members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines — pilot and maintain eight F/A-18 Hornets, of which six will perform during the show. The team’s signature aerial maneuvers include diamond and delta formations.
Chicago Tribune photographer Antonio Perez shot this video of the Blue Angels as they practiced for a show in 2015.
Parachute team: U.S. Army Golden Knights
Appearing here since the 1960s — when they would land in Lake Michigan instead of the beach — this team of soldiers has jumped with former Cubs catcher David Ross, actor Vince Vaughn and comedian Bill Murray.
Parachute team: U.S. Navy Leap Frogs
These active-duty Navy SEALs and Special Warfare crew members freefall from 2 miles above the ground, deploying smoke, stacking parachute canopies and intertwining legs as they descend.
Special guest: Royal Air Force Red Arrows
The ambassadors for the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces, who fly nine BAE Systems Hawk fast-jets, have performed almost 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965. Chicago is the first stop during the team’s North American tour.
F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team
Representing the U.S. Air Force and Air Combat Command, the F-22 Demonstration Team travels to 25 air shows a season to showcase the performance and capabilities of the world’s premier fifth-generation fighter.
F-16 Viper Demonstration Team
Based at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the team performs precision aerial maneuvers to show the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Firebirds Delta Team
U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and cutter
Other aircraft demonstrations
A-10 Thunderbolt II
Sources: Tribune reporting; Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications; Gary Jet Center; Divvy