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Local man recalls his Chinook helicopter experiences

UPDATED: 12/20/2015

The story we posted a couple of days ago about a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that made an  overnight stay near the West Union School triggered memories for a Union County man, who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He wrote:

“Your story about the Chinook helicopter that made an unscheduled landing in the west part of Union County took my thoughts back to Vietnam. During my time there I rode on many, many Chinooks.  And, they are the loudest pieces of machinery I have ever been around.  Nobody had even heard of noise protection for human ears in those days in the 1960s, and I attribute my very significant hearing loss, particularly in my right ear, mainly to my many rides on Chinook C-47 helicopters.

“If you stand by a BNSF railroad crossing and listen to a train’s horn, unaided by any hearing protection — then maybe triple that —  and you can imagine the noise in the rear of a Chinook when loading and unloading.”

The U.S. Army’s own tests of the noise levels produced by the Chinooks were done in 1968 at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Grounds. After all kinds of measurements of the noise produced by Chinooks in many operational conditions, the 84-page report reached simple conclusions: “…the noise [of Chinook helicopters] exceeds the provisions of MIL-A-8806A in all octave bands…it is recommended that the noise be reduced…”

Now, 48 years later, the Chinooks are powered by two 4,700 horsepower turboshaft engines, which turn two 60-foot  counter rotating rotors. They are even more powerful and noisy than the ones our writer experienced in Vietnam. The Department of Defense says, however, that the hearing protection provided to troops is much better now.

The community near the West Union school campus had  unexpected overnight guests Wednesday night.

Late Wednesday afternoon bad weather forced a new U.S. Army Chinook CH-47 helicopter and its three-man crew to land close to the Union-Lafayette County line near West Union School.

Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said the twin-rotor helicopter was brand new, having flown for only 20 hours. Sheriff’s deputies responded to calls from nearby residents and offered assistance to the crew. The aircraft crew tried to take off again during the evening, but landed again and decided to wait until the weather cleared.

The sheriff saw to it that they received a hospitable stay in Union County.  Deputies provided transportation to and from New Albany so a crew member could obtain supplies that would be needed for the overnight stay. A county emergency vehicle was loaned to the helicopter crew so they could stay warm during the night.

Sheriff Edwards said the Chinook took off again and proceeded to its destination near Houston, Texas, when the weather had cleared Thursday morning. It is believed the flight had originated in southeastern Pennsylvania where Chinooks are manufactured in a recently upgraded Boeing aircraft factory.

The Chinook has an empty weight of 23,400 pounds and can carry a load of up to 28,000 pounds. The Chinook is used for transporting troops and cargo, including artillery and other supplies and equipment that can be carried externally using three external ventral cargo hooks. It first flew in 1961 and is one of the oldest aircraft designs still being manufactured. It has a wide range of uses in U.S. and allied military operations and costs $30-35-million according to the use for which it is configured.

The Chinook is considered an all-weather aircraft. It is not known precisely what it was about the aircraft’s avionics capabilities or the unique weather conditions that caused pilots to choose not to continue the flight until the weather improved.

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