Wednesday June 27th is a day I won’t soon forget. I was chosen to fly with the NH ANG 157th Refueling Wing out of Pease ANG base in Portsmouth, NH. We would be on a mission to refuel the USN Blue Angels before their arrival to the Service Credit Union Boston-Portsmouth Airshow. I arrived at 11:30AM and after signing some waivers I boarded a blue bus and was taken inside the base.
We then went through another screening, similar to a TSA screening before boarding a commercial airline, and then had our pre-flight briefing. We were then bused over to another building where the 157th Wing Commander Col. Paul “Hutch” Hutchinson gave us a history of the base. We also had a Q&A session in which we were able to ask questions about our flight. We would be flying down to South Carolina and meeting up with the Blue Angels for the refueling run.
After our briefing ended we were then bused over to the KC-135R’s. There were two of them callsigns were Pack 61 and Pack 62. I was in the trailing KC-135R callsign Pack 62. We were able to get situated and took off shortly thereafter. Once airborne we could walk freely around the aircraft. We were able to explore the cockpit and where the boom operator refuels the aircraft. The boom operator lies flat on his stomach and I was able to operate the boom before the Blue Angels arrived. It was a really a once in a lifetime experience.
Blue Angels 4, 5 & 6 showed up off the right side of the plane and were ready to refuel. Blue Angels 5 and 6 were on the right side of the plane right off our wingtip while Blue Angel 4 refueled. The 3 jets took turns refueling, Blue Angels 1, 2, & 3 were assigned to Pack 61 ahead of us. Once the jets were all fueled up they got into formation behind us and turned on the smoke. I was right in the boom operators seat when this happened. Luckily, I was there as they only were in this position for a very short time. They then flew in formation to behind Pack 61 and stayed there for a short while.
The Blue Angels broke off from us and stayed around 24000 feet and we ascended to 33000 feet. They were soon out of sight and we were headed back to Pease for our landing. The Blue Angels arrived at Pease before us and actually flew over my house in Derry. I was fortunate enough to ride in the cockpit during landing. We had a terrific flight crew headed by Pilot Maj Denton, Co-Pilot Lt Costa, MSgt Ingram, SMSgt Jauss and MSgt Girouard were our boom operators.
Hats off to the men and women of the 157th Air Refueling Wing a vital part of our NH community. You can see the Blue Angels perform at the Service Credit Union Boston-Portsmouth Airshow Saturday June 30th and Sunday July 1st. Gates open at 8AM both days. To purchase tickets visit the airshow website.
Pete Langlois lives in Derry with his wife and 2 children. Pete works in the information technology banking sector as a systems administrator. He is an accomplished photographer and loves to shoot at air shows & balloon festivals. He also enjoys shooting waterfalls, nature and macro photography. You can view his outstanding images on his website http://www.petelanglois.net