7 Little-Known Facts about the Chinook Helicopter

7 Little-Known Facts About The Chinook Helicopter

7 Little Know Facts about the Chinook Helicopter

Boeing’s CH-47, the Chinook helicopter, is one of the most distinctive aircraft in any theater of war. Its twin rotors are powered by twin jet engines and, for those two rotors alone, it’s an impressive and often awe-inspiring aircraft. Whether loading up with personnel, evacuees or troops or hauling the 50,000 pounds of cargo for which it was originally designed and intended, it’s a formidable presence in the sky. The Chinook helicopter is a work-horse and carrying at least a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer and a crew chief, getting this beast on and off the ground safely requires a huge commitment of time, energy and resources.

Chinook helicopters are put to use by armies and civil organizations all over the world and beyond combat, they’re used for medical evacuations, rescue & recovery missions, construction, fire-fighting, and even parachute drops.

But these are seven facts about this incredible flying fortress you probably didn’t know. With the Chinook helicopter, everything you learn seems to make it just more impressive.

1. Developed from the late 1950s, the Chinook is but one of a handful of vehicles from that era that are still in use, still being manufactured and still on the front lines in military service. It’s the single longest production run of any aircraft produced by Boeing – at 53 years. Some 1200 have been delivered from Boeing at this writing, and some 800 are still in service.  

2. Chinook Helicopters have been used in every US Military mission since the early 1960s. The first were delivered to the Vietnam region in 1962. CH-47D helicopters were developed starting in 1976 by stripping down the first three versions and re-building them from the ground up. Almost 500 of the earlier models were retrofitted and upgraded to the CH-47D standard.

3. Rebuilding, redesigning and re-testing the Chinook requires extensive non-destructive testing – and doubtless lots of destructive traditional testing – on nearly every square centimeter of the aircraft. The plant where Boeing constructs the Chinook used to be a locomotive plant, and simulates everything from combat conditions to rainfall. In the 1980s an extensive testing and redesign process replaced steel rotors with the rotors currently turning above the helicopters and made from a composite of resin, honeycomb paper and covered in graphite and glass. Those 198s rotor blades will be replaced and the army is currently hoping to add another 1,500 pounds of lift to the helicopter’s capacity. Of course, testing and designing the blades could take some time.

4. The Chinook’s distinctive counter-rotating double rotors mean it doesn’t need a vertical rotor for anti-torque. All the lift power can go up and it’s thus better able to adjust to shifts in the center of gravity from heavy loads. A hold full of passengers is relatively light, but a swinging palette with vehicles and equipment of up 50,000 pounds, attached by cables to the copters triple hooks presents a challenge.

5. Modern models of the Chinook, the CH-47F, began delivery to the US Army, US Army Reserve and National Guard in 2007. The new models feature the Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS) which allows the flight crew to predetermine a landing spot and fly there with virtually no other interaction with the aircraft. The system takes into account all the information about the airspace, and then makes real time changes to the mission during the flight vastly improving the situational awareness of the crew. The new airframe and a new (2013) flooring system lets aircrews quickly change from taking passengers to hauling cargo or vice-versa – a change that used to take hours.  

6. Flying at a top speed of 170 knots (196 mph, 315 km/h) the Chinook can still fly higher and often faster than attack helicopters like the Apache or the Blackhawk. This behemoth really is the fastest military helicopter in service today!

7. Boeing announced in 2014 that modernization programs of the CH-47F/MH-47G including new aircraft and the retrofitting of older models would keep the Chinook helicopters in the US Military straight through the 2030s. By 2042, the Chinook will have been in service for 80 years. Chinooks have served the armed forces of more than 19 international customers and performed in commercial service around the world.

Like anything being manufactured for an important user, in this case, the US Army, and military services in 20 other countries around the world – as well as some commercial customers – the Chinook requires careful due diligence and testing. Allowing either of two motors to run either of two rotors adds an enormously complex transmission system that runs the length of the 50 foot fuselage of the Chinook. That’s another back up system, because you can’t have one motor fail and ruin the mission, or cause the aircraft to crash. But that system of backup is right in line with all of the other testing and re-testing that has made this into one of history’s most successful military aircraft.