GARY — The Gary/Chicago International Airport is preparing this weekend to host some 15 aerial performers, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, that will use the Region airfield as their base for the annual Chicago Air and Water Show.
Duane Hayden, airport executive director, said Tuesday that federal airport security regulations prohibit the general public from directly getting an up-close view of the performance planes parked at the airfield.
But he said visitors can see and hear the planes taking off and landing — and enjoy some on-the-ground entertainment and food vendors — at the first-ever Gary Car Show in the airport parking lot from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
"This will be one of the busiest weekends of the year," Hayden said.
General admission to the car show is $5, with children age 8 and under admitted free. The money raised will go toward funding the reestablishment of the Gary Air Show in 2020.
"This is the first time we've done that. We do have plans for a fully-functional simulator on trailers — not this year," Hayden said. "We're trying to take the first steps and see what's the interest, and then we'll go full-blown marketing on this next year if it's manageable."
"We don't want to do anything that's going to distract from normal operations."
Hayden said the airport is continuing to grow its corporate and general aviation business, with an eye toward adding more corporate flights and eventually regular passenger service.
To that end, members of the Gary airport board, along with city officials, on Friday will cut a ribbon to open the airport's new east corporate hangar.
The hangar is a nearly 25,000 square foot, $1.3 million facility that can hold several planes at once, including the Gulfstream G6, the biggest and fastest private jet available.
It already has been leased for the next 10 years by Valparaiso-based Sage-Popovich, Inc. to support its aviation inspection, appraisal and repossession services, according to airport records.