A first, last flight for Apache pilot
March 10, 2009
Three flight schools.
More than 150 combat missions.
An estimated 4,000 career flight hours; 700 of those in combat.
Number of hours logged flying a CH-47 Chinook: 0.
That is until a recent change in Army Regulation 95-1. The provision of flight regulations affords battalion and brigade standardization officers the opportunity to fly any aircraft assigned to their respective battalions or brigades.
"As soon as I read [the regulation] I knew I wanted to fly with Richard," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alexander Lutz, a Chinook pilot and standardization officer for the "Nightmare" battalion, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
"Richard," is Chief Warrant Officer 5 Richard Chenault, an Apache pilot and standardization officer with Headquarters Company, 2nd CAB, stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, for the third time during his 27-year career.
Chenault participated in missions, both in peacetime and wartime, during his career with the Chinook aircraft, but never flown one. He hadn't even stepped foot in a Chinook until Thursday.
The co-pilot for his inaugural Chinook flight was no stranger to him or the 98-foot long, 23,400 pound aircraft. Lutz has been a CH-47 Chinook pilot for more than 20 years. He also spent several years in the enlisted ranks as a crewmember, even serving with then Sgt. Richard Santos, now known as Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Santos, command sergeant major of 2nd CAB.
Lutz was also featured in a National Geographic program demonstrating the abilities of the Chinook aircraft.
Lutz and Chenault met early on during Chenault's final deployment to Korea last January. The two quickly became friends after meeting and working together for the past year.
"He contacted me and set everything up as soon as he heard about the change in regulation," said Chenault. "Without [Lutz], I don't think I would have gotten the opportunity."
Chenault and Lutz climbed into their seats in the Chinook aircraft, one that is nearly twice as large as the Apache, and after quick hands-on tutelage and cockpit familiarization, Chenault gripped the horseshoe-shaped thrust control lever and pulled his way skyward.
According to Lutz, there is a definitive difference in power between the AH-64 Apache helicopter and the CH-47 Chinook.
"This thing will take off like a homesick angel," Lutz told Chenault through the internal headset.
Chenault grinned from ear to ear, acknowledging the legitimacy of his friend and co-pilot's adage.
After Chenault adapted to the power of the aircraft, the two were ready to roll. The friends, and their crew of four, took off to execute several missions. They practiced side-hill landings, sling-loading a block weighing five-thousand pounds and landing on top of a mountain, in this case the narrow mountain top of "Pinnacle 4."
Chenault flew his new aircraft for more than three hours, often relaying to friend and co-pilot Lutz the similarities and differences between his Apache and Lutz's Chinook. According to Lutz, Chenault had the opportunity to experience the same training in those three hours that new pilots receive during their six-week course.
Lutz showed his enthusiasm throughout the flight by clapping in applause and giving his friend thumbs ups after each successful task.
Chenault then had the opportunity to bring the Chinook back to its resting place on the runway. He landed it squarely on his target, completing his first and only flight in the aircraft.
"This was a great opportunity to fly the Chinook with my friend and I will miss working with these guys on a daily basis here."
Chenault will be missed as well.
"I will miss [his] leadership and counsel," said Col. Joseph A. Bassani, commander of 2nd CAB.
"Richard was my right-hand man on issues that affected our ability to operate in one of the most demanding environments our Army has to offer. He is a true professional and friend."
Chenault won't be hanging up his flying uniform just yet, though. He is moving on to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to be an Apache instructor pilot; teaching incoming pilots all he has learned during his career.
After one year at Fort Rucker, he will officially retire from the Army to spend more time with his family, but continue his aviation legacy as a civilian instructor.