There’ll be a little extra blue in the skies of Milwaukee this weekend.
Although the program includes a variety of air and water acts, along with exhibits, activities and events on the ground, the Blue Angels are the biggest and loudest attraction of this year’s show — not least because it’s been a long time since they’ve performed here.
The Blue Angels took part in the Milwaukee air shows in 2005 and 2010, and were scheduled to perform in 2014. Although the pilots were able to practice here that year, low ceilings on the days of the show kept them from performing for the hundreds of thousands lining the lakefront to see them.
The air show regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of gawkers, thrill seekers and air enthusiasts to the lakefront.
But landing the Blue Angels is still a big deal — and a big attraction.
“We’ve had some tough weather with them, and it’s a long time waiting for Milwaukee to see the full blue Delta,” said Paul Rogers, president of the Milwaukee Air & Water Show.
The Delta Formation, during which all six F-18 Hornets fly in a tight pattern, caps the Blue Angels performance, which is scheduled to take to the skies at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Milwaukee air show went dark last year because of scheduling and funding issues; even then, the show had booked the Blue Angels for 2017. In March, WaterStone Bank stepped in to sponsor the show to ensure it, and the Blue Angels, would return.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the show,” Rogers said of WaterStone.
Joining the Blue Angels is “Fat Albert,” a U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed C-130T Hercules military transport plane that deserves its name. Designed as a troop, medical evacuation and transport aircraft, the giant four-engine turboprop plane carries logistical equipment for the Angels and is a popular attraction in its own right.
Performers in the air show include:
- The U.S. Army Golden Knights, the popular Army parachute demonstration team.
- The Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, a six-person team flying North American T-6 Texan trainer aircraft.
- The Aerostars Formation Aerobatic Team, known for its tight-formation flying in Yak-52TW warbirds.
- An A-4 Skyhawk tactical jet, an aircraft formally retired by the Navy in 2003 and piloted by Warbird Heritage Foundation founder Paul Wood.
- Firebirds Xtreme Aerobatic Team, a nationally known aerobatic team.
- Michael Wiskus Lucas Oil Airshows, featuring stunt-flying veteran Wiskus piloting a Pitts S-1-11B biplane known as the “Super Stinker.”
- A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65C rescue helicopter, one of only 100 in inventory, staging a search-and-rescue demonstration.
Also taking part in this year’s show is the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard, stationed at Mitchell International Airport. It’ll be the first time that the Refueling Wing has been in the air show in six years, due to budget cuts in previous years.
“I always refer to them as the hometown air force,” Rogers said. “I don’t know what they’re up to, but they’re going to do something special.”
Water show performers include the Badgerland and Muskego Waterbug ski teams, JetSki Stunt Shows, and Hustler Powerboat speed demonstrations.
This year’s air show has a ground game, too.
In addition to shops selling air show and armed forces memorabilia, and 14 food vendors, the grounds along the lakefront from McKinley to Bradford Beach will have several exhibits for showgoers to check out.
For the first time, the EAA’s Spirit of Aviation mobile experience trailer will be part of the show. The trailer includes hands-on activities along with exhibits including a reproduction of Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport control tower.
Also on display for grounds dwellers will be the X-1 Supercar, a Ford Mustang designed to showcase Air Force technology; and one of three V-12 diesel engine-generators, made by Waukesha Engine, salvaged from the rubble at the World Trade Center.
IF YOU GO
What: 2017 Milwaukee Air & Water Show
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Along Milwaukee’s lakefront north of downtown, primarily from McKinley Beach to Bradford Beach
How much: Admission is free, with VIP and reserved-seating tickets (Northpoint Lot and McKinley Beach) available at the box office on the grounds, and at milwaukeeairshow.com/tickets
Parking: Milwaukee County Parks grass lots between McKinley Marina and Veterans Park are expected to open at 7:30 a.m. both days; parking also available in O’Donnell Park, and city streets