You hear the gear drop and flaps lower. The Flight Attendants have made their final pass through the cabin for trash and to remind you to raise your seat back and tray table and to turn off your electronic devices. You can feel the plane descending and yet all you can see are trees looming closer.
If it’s night, there is an occasional streetlight but nothing more. You finally see a clearing, feel the wheels touch earth, hear the thrust reversers as they propel you slightly forward in your seat, and realize you’ve landed at New Hampshire’s jewel of an airport, and you’re home.
Still living in New England, but having moved a little north of Boston, Manchester/Boston Regional Airport (MHT) has become my new hometown airport. With no landing pattern over my house and no stoop to sit on anymore, the beautiful terminal at Manchester has become the place I go to five days a week to show the Warrior Spirit to our northern New England neighbors. Hope you enjoy a brief story of my new “hometown airport.”
May 27, 1927 was a significant day in aviation history, as it was the day a committee was formed to determine if an airport should be built at Woodbury Park serving the City of Manchester, NH. Oh, and it was also the day Charles Lindbergh, piloting The Spirit of St. Louis took off from Newark, NJ on his historic non-stop flight to Paris! His return to the U.S. brought him to New Hampshire, but, as the new field in Manchester was not yet completed, he landed at the neighboring capital of Concord. Missing this major event prompted the completion of the two runways that comprise our current runways 6/24 and 17/35. Shortly thereafter, the first landing took place at the new field in November 1927.
The original 1928 Hanger and terminal at Manchester Airport. The building was constructed in 1930 and remained part of the airport until 2006 when runway expansion spelled its demise. The terminal is the smaller building attached to the hanger on the right. (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
In 1934 Boston and Maine Airways, forerunner of Boston based Northeast Airlines, began regular passenger service from Manchester. Round trip airfare to Boston was $6.00 and to Montreal was $24.00. Pictured is a B & M Stinson Tri-motor landing at MHT. Amelia Earhart served on the board of directors of the airline for a time. (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
Not quite the Evolve interior we’re used to, this is the seating of a B & M Stinson Tri-Motor! (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
The “new” second art deco terminal was built in 1937 through President Franklin Roosevelt’s post-depression WPA at a cost of $9,000. It was moved just a few years ago to a new site across from the current terminal adjacent to runway 17/35 and is the home of the Aviation Museum of NH. (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
America’s first person in space, Alan Shepard hailed from New Hampshire and learned how to fly at Manchester Airport in this Kinner Fleet in 1939. Shepard was later one of the elite few to go to the moon in 1971. (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
In 1941, with U.S. involvement in World War II, the airport was ceded to the government and renamed Grenier Field after Manchester native Jean Grenier, who died in a crash while pioneering a new air mail route out of Salt Lake City for the government. The airport was returned to the city in 1949 and commercial service by Northeast was reinstated in 1951. The name remained Grenier Field until 1977 when the airport was called Manchester Airport once again and ultimately, its current designation Manchester/Boston Regional Airport in 2006.
Northeast Airlines was the one constant in air travel at Manchester from its first departure in 1934 until its merger with Delta in 1972. The DC-3 on in the upper photo is taxiing in on a winter’s day while the DC-9 “Yellowbird” sits at the Ammon terminal, the building that served MHT until the opening of the current jewel in 1994. (DC-3 photo courtesy of NH Aviation Historical Society. DC-9 photo by Norman Houle)
United 727-200 boarding at the Ammon Terminal in their 1980's colors. (Photo courtesy of the NH Aviation Historical Society)
A blast from the past. A Mohawk BAC-111 boarding at the Ammon Terminal in the late 60’s. Utica, NY based Mohawk merged into Allegheny in 1970. Allegheny later became the current US Airways. (Photo courtesy of NH Aviation Historical Society)
Although the economic downturn has taken its toll on the passenger numbers at MHT, the future couldn’t look brighter for New Hampshire’s jewel. MHT is part of the Boston Regional Airport system, which also includes Worcester Airport (ORH) in Massachusetts and T.F. Green in Providence. These three airports help relieve potential overcrowding at Boston Logan, as well as serve their own marketing areas.
Growth in the region is strong, and MHT is currently courting new airlines including potential international service. We are also expecting the arrival of American Airlines once the merger process with US Airways is complete.
So, for many years to come, I know that when I hear the gear drop and the flaps lower, and see nothing but trees looming closer, I’m almost home.