RAF Chinook in landing mishap

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The UK Ministry of Defence has released limited details of an accident involving a Royal Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook HC2 transport helicopter in Afghanistan earlier this year. Announced during a media facility at the UK Defence Aviation Repair Agency's (DARA) Fleetlands site in Hampshire last week, the disclosure included an opportunity for Flight International to photograph the aircraft.

The Chinook - ZA675 - sustained major damage to its port forward landing gear when it was involved in a heavy night-time landing at an undisclosed forward operating location in the May-June timeframe, says Maj Gen Gary Coward, commander of the UK's Joint Helicopter Command. Its crew is believed to have not immediately realised the full extent of the damage, and the aircraft was refuelled and returned to Kandahar airfield, from where it was later recovered to the UK using a Boeing C-17 strategic transport.

An RAF incident board investigation recently concluded that the accident happened because of the aircraft's "missed rate of descent", which also caused irreparable damage to its port fuel sponson, but no casualties. A quote for the aircraft's repair was expected to be delivered to the UK Defence Logistics Organisation's Chinook integrated project team (IPT) for approval last week.

 
© Craig Hoyle  
ZA675 is awaiting repair at DARA's Fleetlands site

Coward says the MoD's newly established through-life customer support (TLCS) deal with Boeing could enable the platform to be back on the UK's Chinook "depth" maintenance line by February 2007, from where it could take from as little as 60 days to be returned to service. Under the RAF's previous repair system the aircraft could have remained out of use for around two years, he says.

Implemented in May 2006, the expected 34-year Chinook TLCS programme - under which Boeing is responsible for managing the maintenance and repair work now conducted at DARA's Fleetlands site - will be worth an estimated £200 million ($370 million) over its first five years of operation. The RAF has contracted the company to guarantee 12,500 flight hours a year and 27 Chinooks available to the frontline at any one time.

 
© Craig Hoyle  
Extensive structural damage was suffered

"We've seen some real advantages of being on contract with Boeing since 22 May," says Chinook IPT leader Gp Capt Mark Sibley. "The benefits are vast." The company - which is currently conducting a similar Chinook landing gear repair for the Spanish army - will be responsible for delivering all spare parts for the RAF fleet of the aircraft from next February, he adds.

Meanwhile, the MoD's Invest­ment Approvals Board is expected to make a decision early next year on whether to recommend a proposed "fix to field" programme that would enable the RAF to begin operations with its eight grounded Chinook HC3 transports from around 2010-11.