50 years ago today, the US Army received its first CH-47A Chinook tandem-rotor helicopter. It’s probably not likely that anyone that day could have foreseen that exact same helicopter would not only be flying, but also receiving upgrades so that it can continue to fly for the foreseeable future. Moreover, it’s entirely possible that the Chinook could still be flying for another 50 years… I’d put money down on it.
Here is Flight’s editorial from the 14 August issue.
It is fast, agile and has outstanding high altitude performance. It can also be quickly and easily upgraded – and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future.
Since the introduction of gas turbine engines, there had not been a real technological breakthrough until the advent of Sikorsky‘s X-2 compound helicopter prototype. But while the X-2 shattered speed records – thumbing its nose at retreating blade stall – it is unclear if it will ever find a buyer.
Nor is it clear if Eurocopter’s X3 high-speed compound helicopter is on any better a footing.
Meanwhile, tilt-rotor technology increasingly looks to be an evolutionary dead end. The compromises to hover performances imposed by that design do not appear to be acceptable to most potential customers. Nor is the high price of such aircraft something many customers are willing to pay.
The bottom line is that while speed is always nice to have, the market does not appear to be willing to pay a premium for that added performance. This means that aircraft like the Chinook will probably soldier on decade after decade.