Chinook turns 50, looks toward future
For most individuals, change can be harder with age. Not for the CH-47 Chinook Helicopter -- an aircraft originally designed and built to haul missiles that the U.S. Army no longer uses.
"To see the improvements and what we've done with this aircraft through the years gives me a lot of pride," said Maj. Gen. William "Tim" Crosby, program executive officer for Aviation. "That aircraft was designed to haul something we don't even have anymore, but it is still so valid. It is so versatile at all altitudes, with internal and external loads. It's an outstanding capability."
The cargo aircraft celebrated its 50th year of flight with the U.S. Army Sept. 21 during the opening ceremony of a renovated Boeing Company CH-47 Chinook factory in Ridley Park, Pa. Crosby has flown every model of the CH-47 Chinook and has experienced firsthand the advancements and improvements made to the aircraft.
But those improvements are far from over. The Army has been working with Boeing to modernize the floor for on-load and off-load capability and to add ballistic protection, said Col. Bob Marion, project manager for cargo helicopters.
"We owe it to the people who went before us, the people who we serve today and the people in the future to maintain that vision and maintain that perseverance and everything we do every day," said Marion. "This weapons system is doing great things around the world and there are Soldiers out there today who are using this thing to save lives."
The CH-47F model was first delivered to Army aviators in 2009 and has already seen less maintenance needs than the CH-47D model that came before it, said Marion. The frame experiences less erosion and cracking and the gas components are not full of a talcum-like dust from flying in Iraq and Afghanistan. A stronger frame means a stronger aircraft -- something that Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Franzen knows about.
"I've been able to make hard landings in this aircraft and it was fine," said Franzen, who has flown the CH-47D and CH-47F two tours of duty in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. "The safety of the aircraft--the strength and the endurance--is amazing."
Other improvements in the CH-47F model include the Digital Automatic Flight Control System, said Franzen, who now acts as government flight representative that test flies all CH-47F's that come off out of the Boeing plant before delivery to a Combat Aviation Brigade. This system aides pilots who are trying to land during brown-out conditions like a sand storm.
"We work in aviation for the ground force commander -- if that commander needs something somewhere, we provide that for them with this airframe," said Franzen. "Capabilities of the aircraft, where it can go and how it can get there have changed. With the cockpit being all digital we are allowed to fly this aircraft that we may not have been able to get into before. Even in zero visibility situations, I can bring this aircraft in at a hover and bring it down."
Article by Program Executive Office, Aviation