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CBS 2 Vault: Looking Back To The Chicago Air And Water Show 40 Years Ago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Threatening clouds gave way to blue skies as the Air and Water Show got under way.

That sentence could describe Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, when threatening clouds gave way to severe thunderstorms in the morning forced officials to push the start of the day's events at the Air and Water Show back to 1 p.m.

But it was also then-CBS 2 reporter John Quiñones' lead for the story of the Air and Water Show 40 years ago – back then held a little earlier in the season on the weekend of July 28-29, 1979.

Twenty-seven acts dazzled an audience measuring in the hundreds of thousands, some of whom gathered multiple people deep along Lake Shore Drive to watch the action.

On the water, there was a high-speed boat demonstration and the annual parade of beauty queens.

But of course, then as now, the real daredevil acts were in the air.

A biplane demonstration featured loop-de-loops and numerous climbs. Following was a demonstration of the amazing maneuverability of the U.S. Marine Corps' Harrier Jet, which hovered in place over Lake Michigan.

According to the volume, "The Chicago Air & Water Show: A History of Wings above the Waves" by Gerry and Janet Souter, Chicagoan Lt. Bill Newman and pilot Jack Ekt of Hinsdale led the Blue Angels that year – in what the authors called "a navy and air force recruiter's delight."

Also featured were the 126th Air Refueling Squadron of the Illinois National Guard, the Royal Air Force Vulcan bomber, and the C5-A Galaxy – a cargo transporter described as the world's largest airplane, the book recalled.

The Souters' book said the 1979 show drew a crowd estimated at 500,000. These days, the two-day event draws an average of 2.2 million people.

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