The weekend of June 2 & 3 at Chicago Rockford International Airport, home of Rockford Airfest, was perfect! Count this as a real trend at Rockford, ‘cause things just keep gettin’ better and better! With far and away, one of the best static display line ups in the business, there was something for everyone. The Boeing B-52 Bomber, the KC-10 Extender air refueling tanker, 3 KC-135’s, Predator Drone, C-17 Globemaster, F/A 18 Hornet, C-130 Hercules, a boat load of civilian planes........it goes on and on. And this is all BEFORE the show!
This was my 8th consecutive year to serve as Narrator, and it was a pleasure! Let’s start with the weather for the weekend; is was super. There were blue sky both days, with light breezes to help stay cool. And boy did the crowds come through the gates! The official estimate is not in, but judging from my view from the platform and the smiles on Mike Dunn’s face, it was great. Mike is the Director of this fine facility and the head of the local team, responsible for organizing Airfest. Mix in promoter Rudy Malnati, a team of over 750 volunteers and a city that enthusiastically supports the show, and you have a recipe for Air Show Success!
Of course, any show starts out ahead if the headliners are the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. They were here and they were great! In fact Rockford welcomed all the military as the hero’s they are. The Honorary Chairman this years was Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., Commander of the Air Mobility Command, based at Scott AFB, IL. Top it off with the United States Army Parachute Team, The Golden Knights, an Air Force Band and all the fabulous static displays form the US Military and,..... bingo! We have ourselves a winner.
The show opened both days with the Golden Knights jumping in with the Stars & Stripes. They were circled again this year by a 4 ship version of The Firebirds; Matt Chapman in his Eagle 580, Jack Knutson in his Extra 300, Rob Holland in his MX2 and Bill Stein in his Edge 540. They were especially exciting on Sunday when they flew all the way to 12,500 ft and circled the jumper all the way down! Of course later in the show, they all performed their solo routines and The Firebird’s 2 ship.
Mike Wiskus was back in his Luca Oil Pitt’s Special. The Aerostars, all local boys, flew their Yak 52’s in precision aerobatics. Mike Goulian was here in his Extra 330 and the crowd loved his act. Art Nalls was back in his Sea Harrier. He teamed with Rich Gibson & Rich’s Incredible Pyro for some fire ball action! Paul Stender of Indy Boys Extreme Jet Vehicles “flew” his Jet Outhouse and Jet School Bus. Top that off with The Black Diamond Jet Team, with their L-39’s & Mig 17’s, and you pretty much covered all the bases!
Sometimes, a show just works. Sometimes, it is more than “just a show,” and that was the case for this years Rockford Airfest. So many people worked so hard to make it happen, and they all went home smiling and happy. I was proud to be a part of this wonderful, family event. Lets do it again next year!
Story by Herb Hunter
Photos by David Jacobson