By Michelle OwensJanuary 30, 2007
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (TRADOC News Service, Jan. 29, 2007) -- Though it may be the most understated Army aircraft, the CH-47 Chinook plays an important role in combat zones and also provides humanitarian relief, according to officials.
Fort Rucker flight training prepares student-pilots for missions they will encounter when they report to their units, according to CW3 Alex Lutz, B Company, 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment standardization officer.
Many CH-47 students are drawn to the aircraft because of its many uses, he added.
"I think (the Chinook) is an amazing aircraft with a great mission. I enjoy the versatility of the aircraft and its usefulness during both peace and wartime," said 2nd Lt. Chris Jeremiah.
Recently, CH-47 Chinook Class 67-13 executed a training mission with National Guardsmen from 1st Battalion, 131st Armor Dec. 1. Their mission was to transport the Guardsmen to a landing zone surrounded by "insurgents."
The training event was the first air assault mission for the Guardsmen from 1st Bn., 131st Armor, headquartered in Ozark.
The tanker unit is preparing for an upcoming deployment in Iraq next year and will transition to a light cavalry unit in fiscal year 2008, according to the unit's Security Forces Commander Capt. David Van Horn.
"My Soldiers really appreciated the opportunity and experience," he said. "We definitely felt fortunate to be able to cross train with regular Army elements on this operation. (They did) a great job all around."
The training helped prepare the students for future mission planning when they report to their units after flight school graduation, said Lutz.
The instructors demonstrated an air mission brief before the students planned and conducted their own briefing for the battalion commander and instructor pilots.
Students planned their air mission briefing by studying the location, detecting how many insurgents were in the area and where they were located. Students also had to find out what weapons the enemy possessed to determine possible damage to their aircraft and personnel.
"While the planning was challenging, it provided an excellent opportunity to learn some real-world lessons we can take with us as aviators," said Jeremiah.
Student-pilot WO1 Dynelle Pierre said students were responsible for the risk assessment, communication, duties, flight route and instrument procedures.
Air assault missions aren't the only training events CH-47 students must successfully plan. Chinooks are also used for hauling equipment, personnel, vehicles and heavy machinery, fuel, other aircraft and humanitarian relief items. Lutz said he flew rescue and relief supplies to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Designed and built by Boeing, the CH-47 Chinook can carry up to 54,000 pounds and can reach speeds up to 140 knots, or about 260 kilometers per hour, according to the manufacturer.
Students also learn to perform a sling-load operation. During the training, a crew chief in the back of the aircraft hooks cement blocks, ranging from 7,000 to 19,000 pounds, to the underside of the aircraft. Students must learn how to maneuver, fly and hover in the aircraft while carrying heavy items that are hanging below, said Lutz.
"The supervision (the students receive) is important. The leadership and instructor-pilots guide them to develop their thought processes, but we don't do it for them. Our goal is to make the mission a positive learning experience," he said.
Class 67-13 is scheduled to graduate this month.