Losses and Aviation Safety

Former US Army CH-47 flight engineer explains how his Chinook got stuck in the mud. Twice.

‘We landed in a soybean field and sank… The field was ploughed and the dirt very loose…,’ Chris Ishmael, former US Army CH-47 Chinook flight engineer.

On Jan. 5, 2021 the wheels of a Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook based at RAF Benson sank into the mud when it made a precautionary landing near Wantage, Oxfordshire.

As the pictures in this post show, on Jan. 11 two cranes lifted the aircraft on to a platform after more than 250ft (76m) of trackway was laid over the “extremely soft ground”.

RAF Benson said the operation was challenging due to the conditions.

The Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron and the Royal Engineers considered a “number of options” before it was decided to lift the aircraft with cranes.

How is that the Chinook got stuck into the mud?

‘I can answer this question with 100% familiarity because it’s happened to me while I was a CH-47 flight engineer. Twice,’ says Chris Ishmael, former US Army CH-47 Chinook flight engineer, on Quora.

‘With full fuel and nothing else inside, each tire is still supporting over 5k lbs. The tires are called high-flotation wheels, but will still sink readily into soft, saturated ground.’

About the RAF CH-47 that got stuck in the mud in January he says:

‘It was interesting to me that they brought cranes out to remove the aircraft. That tells me that they most likely had a drive-train issue, like one of the 5 transmissions had a chip indication that wouldn’t reset on the maintenance panel, to where they couldn’t run the aircraft. If the aircraft could have been fixed on the spot, it would have been a simple matter of digging the wheels out, and then gingerly flying it out by using the forward slope landing and take-off technique that all -47 pilots are taught during the transition course.’

Then Ishmael recalls;

‘The first time that happened to me was way back in the 90s while on a JRTC rotation to Ft. Polk, LA. We landed in a soybean field and sank to about the same depth as that RAF bird did. The field was ploughed and the dirt very loose, so we just pulled pitch carefully and off we went. The second time was on the parade field at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio during a passenger haul that took place during the typical rainy spring in that part of Texas. We landed with some forward motion, but came to such a sudden, unexpected stop that the guy in the cabin door was thrown forward. Think riding a city bus and the driver slams on the brakes. We left 6 short, but deep, furrows in the sergeant major’s grass, lol.’

Photo credit: Crown Copyright

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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