Summit Aviation recently helped a veteran of military aviation, a Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopter, make a groundbreaking transition into a productive new role in civilian life, firefighting.
Starting late last year, the U.S. Army began auctioning the Chinooks for civilian use. The auctions are the first time military Chinooks are being sold for non-military operations, and Summit Aviation customer CHI Aviation has bought three of the 12 auctioned so far.
Summit, a Greenwich AeroGroup company, has more than two decades of experience working on the twin-engine Chinooks for Boeing and the Department of Defense. The Chinook that Summit prepared is entering CHI’s firefighting fleet, with service expected on an as-needed basis in the western United States.
“We’re pleased the Summit team can take all the experience we’ve gained from our military work to help prepare these Chinooks for a new and productive civilian life,” said Summit Aviation General Manager Ralph Kunz.
To return the helicopter to service for the Howell, Michigan-based CHI, Summit did a 400-hour phase inspection, conducted FAA flight control rig verification and an internal fuel cell inspection, painted the aircraft and rotor blades, and performed a post-maintenance test flight and rotor blade tracking and balancing. In addition, several TBO items were overhauled by Professional Aircraft Accessories in Titusville, Florida, another Greenwich AeroGroup company.
Chinooks have been military workhorses for five decades, hauling troops, supplies, artillery and other equipment. Their civilian heavy-lift roles will likely include firefighting, search and rescue, logging, offshore transport, heavy cargo and construction. That makes the helicopters a good match for heavy-lift specialist CHI, whose work includes clients in the construction, oil and gas, electric utility and forestry industries. CHI also performs search and rescue, firefighting and transport operations for businesses, government agencies and the Department of Defense.
The military is steadily replacing CH-47D models with newer Chinook CH-47F models. Some of the helicopters are being sold to overseas militaries, while parts are being collected from others for use on the CH-47F and other models. Summit recently “depopulated” its 200th CH-47D and expects to harvest parts from nearly 100 more Chinooks in the next few years.
Summit Aviation is proud of its work on the Chinooks, and sending one out for civilian duty is particularly satisfying. “These helicopters have served our nation well, and they’ll provide great service fighting fires and performing other heavy-lift operations,” Kunz said.