The Chinook has landed
The Royal Canadian Air Force officially took possession of its first CH-147F Chinook helicopter during a ceremony in Ottawa today.
The medium to heavy-lift Boeing-built helicopter was put on display for government, military and industry officials before departing for its home base with 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at CFB Petawawa, under the command of LCol Duart Townsend.
During a week in which Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, acknowledged the hiring of an independent consultant to review the ability of Sikorsky to deliver the RCAF’s maritime helicopter replacement for the aging Sea Kings, the arrival of a rotorcraft “on time and on budget,” according to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, was welcomed news.
The $5 billion program ($2.3 for acquisition of 15 helicopters and $2.7 billion for a 20-year in-service support program) will see the F-model Chinooks arriving approximately one per month over the next year.
Chinooks were part of the RCAF for almost two decades between 1974 and 1991 when the fleet was retired. 447 Tactical Helicopter Squadron was re-equipped with the CH-135 Twin Huey continued to provide utility transport while supporting JTF2 in counter terrorism efforts. Those operations eventually ceased in 1996 and the squadron was formally disbanded on Jan 1, 1998.
The government initiated a program in 2006 to acquire a medium- to heavy-lift transport helicopter, eventually awarding the contract to Boeing in 2009. In the interim, however, following an urgent recommendation from the Manley Panel in 2008, the government acquired six D-model Chinooks for operations in Afghanistan.
The first F-model Chinook completed its maiden test flight at a Boeing test facility last June and a second aircraft completed its first flight in September. RCAF air crews and Boeing test pilots have been testing and training on the aircraft in Mesa, Arizona and Patuxent River, Maryland.
In 2011, the government signed a contract with EllisDon Company to construct maintenance bays and the training school in Petawawa that will eventually train air crews and maintenance technicians.
The 450 Squadron will ramp up to full operating capability in stages, but FOC is anticipated by 2017.