The Blues Have Landed!

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.

Maj Denton & Lt Costa

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.

Our Awesome Flight Crew

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 arriving off our wing

Refueling Blue Angel 6

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.

Formation Flying behind Pack 62

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.

Blue Angels 5 & 6 off our wing

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

Blue Angels 4 and 5 off our wing

Blue Angels flying in formation behind Pack 61 taken from the cockpit of Pack 62

Final Approach



Flight with the Golden Knights, A Photo Essay

Fokker F-27

I had the opportunity at this years Service Credit Union Boston-Portsmouth Airshow to fly with the US Army’s premiere parachute team the Golden Knights Black Team. The Black Team was led by Sgt. 1st Class Tom Dunning followed by Staff Sgt. Dan Cook, Spc. Matt Navarro, Staff Sgt. Todd Beckel, Staff Sgt. Trevor Oppenborn and New Hampshire native Staff Sgt. Howie Sanborn. Our pilot was Ken Breeden, a former 23 year Army serviceman with over 8000 flight hours, and our crew chief is Staff Sgt. Jusseppi Silvagnoli. Here is a photo essay on my adventure.

Fokker F-27-400M C-31A Trooper Carrier

Spc. Navarro's Parachute

I get the call at 0900 to get ready to fly.  An associate from Herb Gillen Agency, the airshow promoter, drives me over to the “hot ramp” where the Golden Knights Fokker (F-27-400M) C-31A troop carrier aircraft is waiting.  At 0905 we arrive at the hot ramp, the team is not yet here so I get to grab a few shots of the plane I’ll be flying in.  The light is great at this time of day for shooting.

The crew arrives at 0914 and prepares to do their pre-flight checks. I speak briefly with our pilot, Mr. Breeden, and he gives us some background information on the plane and what altitude we’ll be flying at. I walk around the plane and watch as Black Team packs their parachutes.

At 0950 we board the C-31A and I grab some shots of the cockpit.

I am instructed to take a seat at the front of the plane.

Cockpit of the Fokker F-27 - C-31A

At 1000 I get my pre-flight briefing on the do’s and don’ts of flying with the Golden Knights from SSG Sanborn. I am issued an air-sickness bag tucked into a small brown paper envelope. I was jokingly reminded not to get sick in the brown paper envelope but the white bag inside. I’m pleased to announce that I did not get sick. I’m buckled in and I am seated on the seat next to the door on the right side of the plane. The jump doors are open all the way up to altitude. There are 3 other civilians on this flight with me. I came prepared for the flight wearing pants and a fleece. The others came in shorts and t-shirts so they were outfitted with flight suits. From the looks on their faces, it didn’t do much good in the 30 degree temperatures we faced at altitude.

Black Team Parachutes

SFC Dunning finishes suiting up while SPC Navarro looks onThe team suits up at 1012.

SFC Dunning finishes suiting up while SPC Navarro looks on. At 1028 the team is suited up and we await our clearance from the tower to taxi to the runway.

We started to taxi at 1033 and at 1036 we are cleared for takeoff on runway 34 and we begin our accent to 12,500 feet. During the roughly 20 minute flight I watched the great scenery out the jump doors. It’s a beautiful day and you can see for miles.

For more great shots, including the New Hampshire coast from an aerial view and the Golden Knights Black Team’s jump, be sure to click Read More!

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