Boston-Portsmouth Air Show 2010
The Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, a former Strategic Air Command base in southeastern New Hampshire, is about an hour’s drive up I-95 from Boston. Long gone are the FB-111As and KC-135As of the active Air Force, the base is now home to the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing and its KC-135Rs. It is also a joint use airport, with a handful or corporate jets and plenty of light aircraft occupying hangars that once housed part of America’s nuclear deterrent. “Back in the day”, Pease held large air shows that drew tens of thousands of spectators from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and the other New England states. Almost 20 years later, the airport hosted the 2010 Boston-Portsmouth Air Show, drawing over 70,000 spectators for a six-hour long flying display each day, that included a pair of military flight demonstration teams and loads of civil and military solo and formation acts.
The Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire co-produced the 2010 air show. For the Daniel Webster Council, this was their key event for celebrating the 100 years of the Boy Scouting in America. The Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire had previous experience with Pease air shows, sponsoring the smaller Wings of Hope events in 2007 and earlier.
The quality and quantity of air show performers gathered together at Pease was an air show enthusiast’s dream. The Blue Angels are now 5 months into their 2010 season; their fast-paced and thunderous routine looked highly polished, delighting the crowds with their Fat Albert C-130 and six F-18 Hornets. In comparison, the Brazilian Air Force’s Smoke Squadron flew the Embraer Tucano turboprop trainer, and presented a more artistic aerial ballet with seven aircraft involved in formation and solo passes. Interestingly enough, most of their aircraft have two pilots assigned to each one (but only needing one pilot to fly it), in contrast to the Blue Angels’ one pilot per plane. The Brazilians were well received, and their team merchandise (hats and shirts) sold quickly. After the show, the team would embark on a 5 to 6 day trip home, stopping in Florida, Puerto Rico, and twice in their home country before finally landing in southern Brazil.
Other military performers included lots of afterburner – the Navy’s F-18F Super Hornet and the Air Force’s F-16 Viper East and F-15E Strike Eagle solos. The Army’s Golden Knights were much quieter, but drew equal amounts of cheers. A quartet of top-notch civilian solo performers flew different airplane types: Sean D. Tucker in his Challenger biplane, Mike Goulian in his Extra 300, Rob Holland in his MX-2, and John Klatt in his Staudacher S-300. Teams included Rob Holland with Jack Knutson (Extra 300) together in the Firebirds X-treme show, military veterans Dale “Snort” Snodgrass and Jerry “Jive” Kirby in their new Team MS-760 Paris Jet aerobatic display, and the Red Star formation team of brightly painted Yak-52s and CJ-6s. The Disabled American Veterans-sponsored World War II-era B-25 “Panchito” flew during the show, and attracted scores of veterans to her while parked on static display too. Interspersed between groups of performers, the airport opened for five fifteen minute-long windows for non air show aircraft to arrive and depart. This in itself became part of the show, with Gulfstream, Cessna, Bombardier and Embraer corporate jets and many single-engined piston planes flying in front of the crowds. What a great way to promote civil aviation!
For the first full scale air show in two decades at Pease, the 2010 Boston-Portsmouth Air Show established itself as a must-see in future years. It will be difficult to top the collection of performers gathered for the show. No official word has been given (at the time this article was written) as to if and when the next edition of this show will occur, but if a show date is announced, mark it on your calendar and see how the organizers try to top this year’s success.
Article and photos by Ken Kula