MIDDLETOWN, Del.—Boeing’s [BA] most advanced international CH-47 F Chinook, the heavy-lift helicopter being built for Canada, is generating interest from U.S. and international customers for its newest capabilities–long-range fuel tanks, a newly-designed electrical system, and the latest version of the fully integrated digital cockpit management system.
Those systems are drawing requests for flight demonstrations from potential international customers and some could become the baseline for U.S. Special Operations MH-47G Chinooks going on the production line.
Here at Summit Aviation, the twin-engine tandem rotor helicopter tail number 2051 is going through final checks and training before being turned over to Canadian Air Force officials in September, said Steve Parker, Canadian Chinook program manager for Boeing.
In a $1.15 billion direct commercial sale, Canada has bought 15 Chinooks. The first aircraft was delivered to Canadian officials in June ahead of schedule, and in service support–covering such things as training, engineering and supply chain management and aircraft maintenance has begun. The final aircraft is expected to be delivered in June 2014.
At the end of the runway, in newly applied green camouflage paint, the agile helicopter showed visiting reporters some of its moves.
“It’s very maneuverable, very fast and very smooth,” said Mark Ballew, director of business development, told visiting reporters.
Boeing test and evaluation pilots hand flew the rotorcraft through a series of moves: hover, low pass, moving laterally and vertically, a run-on landing, taking off backward, and a 25-30 knot cross-hover.
The same moves then were repeated with the Digital Advanced Flight Control Systems (DAFCS) which eases the pilot’s workload and provides better situational awareness and safety. The system can be programmed to level off, hover and lower the aircraft in one-foot increments in cases, say, of poor visibility, and execute instrument landings.
The aircraft showed its lift capability, able to pick up and carry loads from three different cargo hooks, though Ballew said it is preferable to use two hooks per load for stability and speed.
Then, reporters clad in Boeing blue flight suits climbed aboard, strapped in, and the Chinook repeated the moves again. The fastest helicopter in the U.S. Army inventory proved it can pivot on its nose, midsection or aft portion of the fuselage, all while cruising at about 130-140 knots, below its top speed of about 170 knots.
Joining reporters were four Boeing employees who built the helicopter, able to see first-hand what their work on the production line in Ridley Park, Pa., actually meant. Boeing has poured some $170 million of its own money into improving production capacity and effectiveness, Chuck Dabundo, vice president H-47 programs, said.
Canada has earmarked their new Chinooks to provide tactical transport of equipment and personnel during domestic or deployed operations, the official Canadian Air Force Web site said. The helicopters are expected to support the military and civil authorities, respond to humanitarian emergencies or natural disasters. Improvements, such as the extended range fuel tanks, about doubles the helicopter’s range, and will help the Chinook manage the vast distances of Canada, as well as environments it might operate in around the world.
For hostile engagements, the helicopter has advanced laser-based active missile counter measure system, chaff and flare dispensers, radar and laser warning systems, a full armor kit, electro-optic/infrared sensor, and three machine guns.
Part of Boeing’s contractual work includes Canada In-Service Support in a 20-year performance-based logistics framework, said Raymond Haddad, director of Chinook Rotorcraft Support. The company has signed the first five-year increment. Performance outcomes are focused on fleet and trainer suite availability, and there is a variable flying hours payment structure. Part of the contract is to partner with Canadian industry and Boeing has run a series of competitions to find partners–last year announcing L-3 Communications MAS and General Dynamics Canada as just two partners. Boeing also has opened to offices, collocated with its Canadian customer in Ottawa and at the main Operating Base in Petawawa, Ontario.
Canada’s new Chinooks are based at 450 Tactical Aviation Squadron, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario.