Thunder Over New Hampshire – “Live Free and Fly” 2021


The 157th Air Refueling Wing of the New Hampshire Air National Guard decided to host an air show in 2021. They worked in conjunction with Herb Gillen of the Herb Gillen agency to produce the best air show in New England in a long time. Having received all of their 12 new KC-46A refueling tankers was probably the main reason that New Hampshire wanted to have a show.


A successful air show needs to have a major jet team to draw in the large crowds, the organizers reached out to theUnited States Air Force Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds were available for the September 11th and 12th weekend, the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th.

It seems all bases were covered in terms of more than enough static aircraft to look at as well as nearly constant flying by the performers.

As large as the crowd was, if keeping track of numbers of cars and specifying having a parking pass was not a necessity, the crowd could have been even larger. ( I ‘pencil in’ air shows weeks if not months in advance, I would assume on a beautiful sunny morning some people might decide on they spot, ” hey let’s go to the air show”). Needing a Parking Pass in advance negated the Spur of the Moment Spectators.


According to Herb Gillen, “The parking pass implementation had a little bit to do with COVID, but was more of a guest experience justification. Our goal was to provide a great experience for everyone who attended the show. If we would not have implemented a capacity we would have had the same traffic and parking issues that every show at Pease experienced 10 years ago. It is likely the parking capacity will exist again the next time the show takes place. (Likely in 2023)”

Personally I think there needs to be an information campaign about what to expect as far as traffic at an air show. It seems At Pease many people complained about traffic in the past, so I understand the effort put forth to try to fix the problem. The general public needs to understand that airports and military bases are simply not built for stadium sized crowds to enter and exit in a timely manner.

I appreciate the attempts to hear everyone’s complaints, I just wish there was a way to gather more pertinent information when someone states the traffic was horrible.

One way to accomplish this would be a questionnaire in which questions would be asked such as did you experience traffic on the way in or the way out?

And what time did you pass through the main entrance?/ How soon after the main act landed did you start your car and try to exit?

On the morning of Saturday September 11, 2021 for me, there was definitely an eerie feeling in the air, looking at the perfectly blue September morning sky.

The New Hampshire Air National Guard held a memorial ceremony on the flight line, bringing back that sinking feeling of always remembering where I was that morning when I heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.


Then about an hour later I witnessed something that made me just stop, and then I felt a warm feeling as if everything was going to be okay. As I stood in front of the six Thunderbird Jets at the far north end of the ramp I saw someone point up in the sky. Curiously I looked up to find a mature bald eagle was circling over the Thunderbirds jets it circled there for 5 or 10 minutes and then returned about an hour later and circled around again.


Besides the Thunderbirds the USAF also sent the F-22 Raptor demonstration team which is quite an impressive jet if you’ve never seen what that jet can do.


My favorite air shows are the ones that have local or nearby units showing off their aircraft. At Pease the New Hampshire Air National Guard flew one of their KC 46A tankers each day. They also had a Rhode Island Air National Guard C-130J to fly the parachute team, the US Special Ops Para Commandos up to altitude for their jumps. The Vermont Air National Guard sent four of their new F-35A fighters, two were static displays and two flew each day including a flight with a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-46A for the flyover for the New England Patriots home opener on Sunday.


Each day the flying started at noon and was basically non stop with the previously mentioned performers as well as civilian performers Mike Wiskus in his Pitts biplane, Rob Holland in his MXS-RH, the P-51 Mustang Quick Silver, Gregory Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star, and the Smoke-N-Thunder jet car.


The weather cooperated to make this the BEST SHOW in New England in many years.

You may also like...