The CH-47 Chinook
In 1960, Boeing bought Vertol Aircraft Co., a helicopter manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pa. The company had three tandem-rotor helicopters under production: the Chinook for the US Army, the Sea Knight for the US Navy and Marines, and the commercial 107-11 for the airlines.
Vertol had started out as the P-V Engineering Forum, owned by Frank Piasecki, which established the “banana shaped” two-rotor helicopter in 1945. Piasecki left the corporation in 1955, and it was renamed Vertol the following year.
The first in the long line of Chinooks was the YHC-1B tandem-rotor transport helicopter that rolled out in 1961. It was designed to serve the US Army and Air Force as a medium-lift helicopter and evolved into several versions.
The first fully equipped Army Chinook, designated the CH-47A, entered service in August 1962 with a gross weight of 33,000 pounds (14,969 kilograms).
Chinooks were first used in combat in 1965 during the Vietnam conflict. During the last days of the war, one Chinook is reported to have carried 147 refugees in a single lift.
But this was not the only amazing fact on the iconic CH-47.
CH-47 Chinook pilot releasing a Daisy Cutter bomb too early
‘Our helicopter unit was tasked with sling-loading them to a safe destination area.
‘In the desert a 50,000 lb Chinook must blow 50,000 lbs of air down to hover. So setting those 15,000 lb bombs down causes one helluva brown out where the pilots can’t see any reference points. One pilot got scared, screamed like a girl, and released the load too early when bomb was 5 feet from ground.’
But what about the pilot?
‘He was a good guy and competent “stick” so he was quietly benched and rotated back to the main unit in Saudi. Not sure where his career went after that.
‘My fellow flight crewmen said there were divots dug into the detonation area where the leftovers were to be set, then later destroyed. The one dropped, missed the hole but was rolled into it. They said when detonated they were a safe distance away but still heard shrapnel fly over head.
‘As a crew chief I have been on more than one flight where a pilot got rattled, but never to that extent. I have also been on flights where very cool heads prevailed, which was a majority of the scary times.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis.