Last Sunday - 22nd November - marked 40 years since the Boeing-built Chinook was first delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The Vertical Flight Society recognised the work of the Chinook Force during the 2019 floods with the Captain William J. Kossler Award, given for the greatest achievement in the practical application or operation of vertical flight aircraft.
Since then, the Chinook Force has seen extensive service in operations around the world, including the Falklands, Balkans, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently supporting French forces in Mali with logistics and troop movement.
At home in the UK and overseas, the Chinook has been called upon to fulfill many humanitarian roles in diverse environments. Chinooks were part of the Aviation Task Force set up as part of the UK government’s Covid-19 response earlier this summer and were also seen in the efforts to save the town of Whaley Bridge from flooding in 2019. The Vertical Flight Society recognised the work of the Chinook Force during the 2019 floods with the Captain William J. Kossler Award, given for the greatest achievement in the practical application or operation of vertical flight aircraft.
Among its many humanitarian missions, the Chinook was central to the UK’s response in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2018, delivering food, water, medical supplies and materials the island residents desperately needed.
“Since receiving the Chinook in 1980, its contribution to defence has been profound. From its first deployment to the Falklands to its current operations in West Africa, the Chinook has continually delivered on operations” said Group Captain Nick Knight OBE MA, Chinook Force Commander and Station Commander RAF Odiham. “Offering a capability second to none, the Chinook emotes a sense of pride built on this long and illustrious history. I am privileged to fly this iconic aircraft and also Command the Chinook Force - I look forward to seeing the Chinook play an equally important role as part of the next generation RAF.”
Boeing maintains the UK’s Chinook fleet of 60 helicopters for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and this work supports more than 450 highly-skilled jobs across the UK. Boeing colleagues are located at Gosport, MOD Boscombe Down and embedded alongside the military at RAF Odiham. Several UK-based Boeing suppliers, including Leonardo in Yeovil, Thales UK in Crawley and Standard Aero in Gosport and Almondbank, Scotland, supply the materials, skills and services.
Pilots can hover or land in situations with limited visibility thanks to the Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS) upgrade programme, the most in-depth and complex aviation modification performed on the RAF’s Chinook Force to date. Carried out by UK-based Boeing employees at MOD Boscombe Down, the modification has been installed on more than 40 aircraft so far and the programme will complete in 2021.
ZA718, or ‘Bravo November’ (BN718) as it was known, is one of the original Chinooks ordered by the RAF in 1978 and has seen four of its pilots awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Arriving in the UK in 1980, the aircraft came to prominence during the Falklands conflict in 1982, and was nicknamed “The Survivor.” It remains in service today, having been upgraded several times and it is scheduled to complete the Boeing DAFCS upgrade in early 2021.
“For 40 years, the Chinook has played a vital role in the UK’s defence capability supporting our people at home and abroad. We are proud to mark this anniversary in our 80 year partnership with the UK,” said Anna Keeling, managing director of Boeing Defence UK. “The Chinook is a multi-role helicopter that transports troops, defence equipment and fuel, it is also key to disaster-relief operations at home and overseas and it plays a major role during times of national crisis.”