Pease History

Aviation first came to the NH Seacoast shortly after World War I, when in 1919 pilots barnstormed their way into the area, offering airplane rides to local residents at the Portsmouth Airport. It wasn’t until 1951 that Senator Styles Bridges announced that the Air Force intended to build a bomber base, and that the Portsmouth Airport was its prime location of interest. In May 1952, the House Armed Services Committee approved the construction of the Air Force Base (AFB), and the building was completed four years later. The base was situated in the middle of a peninsula formed by the Piscataqua River, Little Bay, and Great Bay. It is abutted by the City of Portsmouth and the Towns of Newington and Greenland.

Officially opened in June 1956, Portsmouth AFB was dedicated and renamed to honor Captain Harl Pease, Jr., a Plymouth, NH native, in September of 1957. Captain Pease earned the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism as a B-17 pilot during a bombing raid against the Japanese in Rabaul, New Britain, in August of 1942.

Thirty-three years after it opened, Pease AFB was ordered to close. This caused much debate at the local, regional, and state levels, as to how the redevelopment of the land should be implemented. Based on public input, the State of New Hampshire enacted a law establishing the Pease Redevelopment Commission (PRC). The PRC was an eight-member body consisting of four members appointed by officials of the state government and four members appointed by local governing bodies. Citizens from Newington, Portsmouth, and the surrounding area, along with many environmental groups, threw their support behind the establishment of a wildlife refuge on 1,054 acres of the former AFB. This was accomplished in 1992, with the creation of the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The redevelopment resulted in “Pease International,” which as mentioned earlier, is a prospering business and aviation community covering 3,000 acres of world-class office and industrial space. Pease is home to over 245 companies that employ more than 8,300 people, and occupy some 4 million square feet of office and industrial space.

Pease is comprised of the Pease International Tradeport, the Portsmouth International Airport (PSM), and the NH Air National Guard Base, Skyhaven Airport (DAW) in Rochester, NH, the 27-hole Pease Golf Course, and is also the home of PlaneSense, Inc’s headquarters and Flight Operations Center (FOC). If you haven’t yet visited our headquarters or FOC, please stop in!

The Division of Ports and Harbors (DPH), also located near Pease, assists in the establishment of accommodations for boat travelers, area boat owners, pleasure fishermen, and others who pass up and down the New Hampshire coastline or in its tributaries, particularly in the Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor. Furthermore, the DPH aids in the development of salt water fisheries and associated industries.

The amenities of the Pease community include overnight accommodations, restaurants and banquet facilities, personal and commercial banking, copy and printing services, job training, continuing education, and the aforementioned golf course. Pease offers a Foreign Trade Zone with access to the east coast and international trade corridors by land on Route I-95, direct air cargo from Portsmouth International Airport, or by sea via the Port of New Hampshire. This makes Pease suited for any import or export business. PSM is customs ready (including agriculture and immigration) with commercial and passenger international flights, cargo services, and business charter flights.

Note: This article is displaying as it appeared in Volume 17 of our PlaneSense: Informational Quarterly newsletter.

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