U.S. Army Europe's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade gets newest model of Army's Chinook helicopter

July 13, 2011

U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs

U.S. Army Europe

Photo credit Sgt. Joel Salgado

Soldiers with U.S. Army Europe’s B Company, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, attach ropes and chains from a CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter to a 3-ton cement block during sling load training at Katterbach Army Airfield in Ansbach, Germany, June 29. The pilots and crews of the 12th CAB recently began training on the new CH-47Fs the unit received to replace its fleet of older D model Chinooks.


ANSBACH, Germany – U.S. Army Europe’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade recently began replacing the fleet of CH-47D Chinook heavy lift helicopters its pilots have flown out of Katterbach Army Airfield here for years with the Army’s newest model -- the CH-47F.

“The F model is the fifth generation of the CH-47,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shawn Linnean, a maintenance test pilot with the 12th’s B Company, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. “It’s the newest version to come out.”

The brigade received 12 of the new aircraft, said Capt. Michael Jessee, commander of B Company, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. One of those aircraft is an upgraded D model aircraft that was already in the unit’s fleet, he added, while their remaining 11 D models will either be upgraded as well or turned in.

The D model aircraft have been in service since the mid-1980s, the captain said, noting that many of those were earlier A or C models that went into service in the mid-60s.

The newest Chinook line has many improvements over previous versions.

“The new F Model provides the pilots and crews with more tools to efficiently manage the mission and changes that occur en route,” said Jessee.
One major attribute of the F model is its updated instruments that replace the analog instruments of the older Chinooks that the members of Bravo Company call “steam gauges” with a new digital cockpit.

“We’ve gone to a whole digital cockpit and done away with the old 60s technology,” said Linnean. “It does a lot more for you. There is a lot less pilot workload.”

And most important of all, the aviators raved about how much easier the aircraft is to fly than previous versions.
“It’s the difference between driving a 1980s vehicle and a 2010,” said B Company pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Heekin. Heekin is an old hand with the new birds, having flown them in combat in Afghanistan.

Regardless of whether they’ve been at the controls of Chinook since the first D model climbed the sky, or are brand-new to driving the big twin-rotor workhorses, the aviators have to complete certification on the new systems before they can fly. That certification consists of 70 hours of classroom instruction, 26 hours in one of the two new state-of-the-art Chinook flight simulators the brigade added to its inventory to complement the new aircraft and 14 hours of flight time.

“It’s pretty rigorous training, said Heekin. “It’s like drinking out of a fire hose -- there’s a lot of information to take in.”
The B Company pilots seemed to agree that the new aircraft are an improvement that gives them and their unit a better – and more importantly, safer – way to do business.

“It allows us to have a greater situational awareness of everything on the battlefield, so that we can perform our duties in the Chinook a lot safer for everybody involved,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Larkin. “It gives us a greater ability to accomplish the mission better and safer.”
The capabilities of the F models allows pilots and crews to make more informed decisions regarding mission, environment and flight, Jessee explained, and its enhanced instrumentation allows the aircraft to operate in limited visibility conditions.
With their heavy lift capabilities, the Chinooks have been used for a variety of missions moving troops and cargo during the brigade’s combat deployments and at home in Europe.

“We perform mixed multi-ship air assaults with the Black Hawks and Apaches, general support missions, mass casualty missions, emergency resupply and evacuation missions, and jump Forward Arming and Refueling Point missions,” Jessee said.
In Europe the Chinooks are routinely called upon to support VIPs, noncombatant evacuation operations, disaster relief missions and other contingency operations, he added.