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 t he 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 landin g 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 dow nturn 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.
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This week, we flash back to Boston Logan in the 1970s through the eyes of guest blogger, Jack Wild, a Boston Operations Agent. I recently had the privilege of putting together Boston’s first Station Newsletter. One of the pieces I included was our own version of "Flashback Fridays" with several photos of Logan back in the 1970’s. Going through my old slides brought back a lot of great memories of Logan’s past and of how easy it was to plane spot from several perches around the airport. I grew up in Revere, a coastal city that abuts the northern border of Boston, which also happens to be on the approach to Runways 22 Right (22R) and 22 Left (22L). A popular summer thing to do on a Sunday afternoon was stoop sitting, where everyone would sit out on their front stairs or “stoop,” giving us the opportunity to visit with our neighbors. My front stoop had a clear shot of planes on final to 22L, and I paid more attention to the parade of Easterns, Northeasts, and Alleghenys than to any visiting passersby. The one plane that always caught our immediate attention was the BOAC Super VC-10. As soon as my uncle would spot the “cigar-shaped BOAC” (the technical term when you’re eight years old) he would gather me into the car and the race would begin to our spot at the end of the runway. We always made it in time to see (and hear) those four Rolls Royce Conway engines just above our heads touch down after a long flight from London Heathrow. We would stay for a little while longer watching the resident Northeast Convair 880 and 727 Yellowbirds, the “little Americans” (another eight year old's technical term) also known as the BAC-111, Eastern Constellations still soldiering on operating the Boston-New York shuttle, and all of the other activity. If we were really lucky, we would catch another of the international arrivals; maybe a DC-8 of Alitalia or Swissair, or an Aer Lingus 707. Hence began my love of planes, the airline industry, and “my airport”! Here are some of my favorite photos of Logan in the 1970s: This is the view I had from my front stoop when planes were landing on runway 22L. American operated a daily 747 to Los Angeles in the late 70s. This would later be replaced by a DC-10 after American sold the 747s to Pan Am. BOAC's Super VC-10 traded off daily service to London Heathrow with the Boeing 707. Built by Vickers of the U.K., the VC-10 is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful airliners ever designed. BOAC became British Airways in the mid 70s as a result of a multi-airline merger in England. Logan used to have an observation deck with a snack bar on the 16 th floor of the control tower and a cocktail lounge on the 18 th . Logan’s tower, now closed to the general public, was the world’s tallest for several years after its completion. This is the view of a United DC-10 and DC-8 in the popular “Friendship” colors that currently grace an A320. For the non-enthusiast, the engine start of the Lockheed L-1011 on a cold winter’s day was always an un-nerving site! Here is an Eastern Tristar in the in the hockey stick colors at the Southwest Terminal (not our terminal!) later changed to Terminal A. In the good old days, TWA had a mini trans-atlantic hub at Logan with daily service to London, Paris, Rome, Lisbon, and Santa Maria the Azores. Here is a 747 in the 70s colors on its way to London Heathrow. This is a photo of the Volpe International Terminal, now called Terminal E, when it first opened in 1973. Terminal E is the current home of Southwest in Boston. The catwalk in the distance has been replaced by our five gates, E1A – E1E. This is what the catwalk in the previous photo looks like today on the airside of Terminal E as seen from our gates E1B (the Shamu gate)and E1C to E1D and E1E currently the home of our sister airline, AirTran. Flash Forward Friday! Boston is the first U.S. city to have scheduled service by Boeing’s beautiful new 787, operating Japan Airlines' new nonstop service to Tokyo Narita. The hanger in the background now used by jetBlue was built by TWA in the 1960s. Logan is counting on JAL’s success with the 787 to lure potential new service to China, India, Turkey, and the Middle East.
Logan today is a far different place than it was back then. The Yellowbirds are long gone replaced by Delta; the cigar-shaped BOAC arrival is now two British Airways 747 and one 777; and the Aer Lingus 707 is replaced by three daily A330s. The biggest event signaling the future of Logan is the arrival of the beautiful Boeing 787 Dreamliner operating the very first scheduled service to a U.S. city. I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane as much as I did.
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