Christmas Eve was a sad day for Chicago and the Airshow Industry. Our good friend Rudy Malnati passed away after a long battle with cancer. The Chicago Sun Times did a fitting obituary.
RIP Rudy Malnati
Lou Drendel wrote the following tribute to Rudy for our book “Lima Lima”. It is an accurate description of the importance of Rudy’s friendship for the team. Though they hint at the personal feelings many of us felt for Rudy, they don’t begin to express how important he was to so many others in and out of the air show world. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Rudy Malnati deserves special mention because over the course of several years he became a team sponsor and personal friend to many team members. Rudy took over the Chicago Air & Water Show when Al Benedict retired. Rudy had trained under Al at the Chicago Park District, so he was intimately familiar with how the show should run, and how it had run. The show is now run by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, where Rudy also works on other special Chicago events. He is also the founder of the Pizanos chain of Chicago restaurants. When he took over for Al, Rudy kept most of the key players from Al’s cadre and used them to also inaugurate the first Gary Air Show and the first Las Vegas Air Show. He hired us to perform in these shows and kept us coming back to the Chicago Air & Water Show, year after year. When he needed someone to fly over a parade or a civic celebration, such as the Bulls Championship rallies, or the Olympic Torch Celebration, Rudy called on Lima Lima. We became what Rudy termed: “The House Team”. In our darkest hours, after the Evans crash, Rudy drove out to Aurora on a Friday night with us, commiserating, advising, and encouraging a team that was in shock. He advised to; “Keep Flying….Stay Together”. This was not business advice, this was psyche-saving advice from a friend……maybe the best friend the Lima Lima Flight Team ever had.