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The History of Portsmouth International Airport

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

CHI Aerospace is situated at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, home of the New Hampshire Air National Guard and formerly the New Hampshire Air Force which was in operation for 35 years. From 1956 until its closure in 1991, Pease Air Force Base maintained a combat-ready force for long-range bombardment and nuclear strikes. Having our flight school based at a controlled airport with a runway over two miles long, we see an array of aircraft on a daily basis, ranging from Cessna 172s to C-5s, and everything in between! Check out the timeline below to see how Portsmouth International Airport at Pease has evolved since it was first built in the 1930s.


1930s - Built and named Portsmouth Municipal Airport.

1941 - Improvements to the airport were announced as a result of the onset of World War II.

1942 - Closed to civilian traffic under defense measures.

1944 - Released to the US Navy who had a presence at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

1951 - US Air Force assumed control and was selected as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Base.

1952 - 1956 - purchased additional land and expanded the base; renamed Portsmouth Air Force Base.

1957 - Renamed Pease Air Force Base in honor of NH native Captain Harl Pease, Jr., USAAC, awarded Medal of Honor for heroism during WWII.

1961 - 1962 - During this time, the base received consideration as a potential site for Minuteman missile deployments.

1966 - The New Hampshire National Guard, previously located in Manchester, relocated to Pease Air Force Base.

1988 - Pease Air Force Base was one of the 86 military installations to be closed as part of the Secretary of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure process.

1989 - Over 3,000 active-duty military personnel were employed at Pease Air Force Base, 49 of which were assigned to the Air National Guard.

1991 - Pease Air Force Base officially closed.

Notable Events

-Pease Air Force Base was home to the 100th Bombardment wing.

-A few iconic aircrafts that were based there: B-47 Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress, FB-111 Aardvark, KC-92 Stratofreighter, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-97 Stratofreighter, C-124 Globemaster, C-130 Hercules

-The 64th Air Refueling Squadron was activated at Pease as the 157th active-guard associate in 2009. This was the first time an active duty Air Force unit had returned to Pease since it’s closure in 1991.

- In 2019 the final KC-135 departed for Goldwater Air National Guard Base in Phoenix, AZ.


- The majority of Pease Air Force Base was transferred to the Pease Development Authority which operates Pease International Tradeport including Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.

- The remaining part of the former Pease Air Force Base was transferred to the New Hampshire Air National Guard, and later renamed Pease Air National Guard Base.

- These days, Portsmouth International Airport at Pease is used by a mix of military and commercial jets and general aviation aircraft.



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