July 14th, 2012
The Museum of Flight in Seattle recently hosted the American Heroes Air Show that is dedicated to showcasing the use of helicopters in the U.S. military, U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement and civilian roles. Unfortunately in the morning there was widespread low-level fog which delayed some helicopters and prevented others from arriving, this included the big bird of the US Army, the twin rotor Boeing CH-47D Chinook.
This was one of the latest variants of the heavy lift and troop carrying Chinook helicopter that first entered service way back in 1962 (They are still being produced and the newest version is the CH-47F with a digital “glass” cockpit). It has multiple hooks underneath the fuselage to carry cargo loads and also features a rear ramp for troops, small vehicles and cargo to be loaded/unloaded. The twin three-bladed rotors and no tail rotor means that all the helicopters power is dedicated to lift and thrust, thus enabling it to carry heavy loads (8.85 tonnes or 19,500 pounds) and the main cabin can hold 33 fully equipped soldiers.
Despite the size of the Chinook and what appears to be two engines that are far too small the big helicopter is actually faster than many helicopters including attack choppers like the AH-64 Apache. The Chinook has a top speed of 315 kmph (195 mph) the Apache is capable of 284 kmph (176 mph)!
For me it is a rare opportunity to see a CH-47. The Australian Army operates them too, but they rarely appear at shows these days as they have regularly been deployed on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years (particularly to support the Special Forces operating there).
As an added bonus another US Army Chinook flew over the air show late in the day. It had been to another show further North in Washington state and was on the way back to Joint Base Lewis McChord.