Acquiring Five Boeing CH-47D Chinook Helicopters
Columbia Helicopters is expanding its fleet of heavy lift, twin-rotor aircraft with the acquisition of five Boeing CH-47D helicopters, formerly operated by the US Army.
The helicopters, originally manufactured in the early 1970s as CH-47C models, but upgraded in 1988 to the D-model configuration, will join the operator's fleet of six Columbia Model 234 Chinooks, and 14 Columbia Vertol 107-II. According to Todd Petersen, the Portland, Oregon-based company's Vice-President, Marketing, Columbia Helicopters has already taken delivery of the first one, with the other four slated to arrive "shortly." The CH-47D, he explained, is the same size as the Model 234, which is the commercial variant of the military helicopter.
"We have been considering the purchase of surplus CH-47D Chinooks for the past several years, but had to wait until the aircraft were made available for auction by the General Services Administration (GSA) before we could act," said Petersen. "We purchased them in order to increase our presence in our current markets—specifically construction, the oil and gas industry, and aerial firefighting." There are no plans, he reported, to retire any of the company's currently operating aircraft as the CH-47Ds come into the fleet, and no specific projects or contracts have been announced involving those additional aircraft.
As former military aircraft, they will be operated by Columbia Helicopters under FAA Restricted Category regulations," Petersen explained. "As such, we won't be permitted to use them in a passenger transport role, but we should be able to deploy them to meet our other project requirements."
As the CH-47Ds enter Columbia Helicopters' maintenance facility at the Aurora (Oregon) State Airport, the company's technician teams will conduct extensive inspections of the airframes, systems and components, and will carry out all of the work necessary to make them airworthy, said Peterson.
"We will work closely with the FAA on all maintenance, as well as any mission-related modifications we need to perform on the aircraft," Petersen noted. "Our current maintenance staff has extensive experience with the CH-47 family, but we expect to add additional technicians as the four helicopters become operational."
Pilot training, which Columbia Helicopters carries out in-house, will involve a modified Model 234 training curriculum. "With its purchase and refurbishment of the five military surplus CH-47Ds, Columbia Helicopters is an example of how a privately-operated national firefighting asset is continuing to build its infrastructure, as climate change increases the risk and severity of wild land fires," said Tom Eversole, Executive Director of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA). "At AHSAFA, we are continuing to work with Congress and the appropriate government agencies to assure a presence and growth opportunities for the private sector in aerial firefighting."
(Image from file)