18-May-2011 Source: US Marine Corps
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan â€“Canadian and U.S. forces safely recovered a downed Canadian Forces CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 17.
Utilizing a trio CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, with assistance from 2nd Marine Logistics Groupâ€™s helicopter support team, the Canadian and American team was able to transport the damaged aircraft back to its home at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
â€œWe showed up with two aircraft to do the lift in case one had a maintenance issue during the mission,â€ said Maj. Jade Steward-Campbell a CH-53E pilot and HMH-461â€™s maintenance officer. â€œA third CH-53 served as our tactical support aircraft, which launched out with the HST to rig the CH-47 for pick-up, and to transport all the debris from the crash and Canadian Forces personnel back to Kandahar.â€
To ensure the mission was carried out safely, a pair of Canadian Forces attack helicopters provided close-air support during the mission, while Canadian Leopard 2 tanks provided ground security.
â€œThere were also Canadians who worked in conjunction with the HST,â€ explained Staff Sgt. Peter Montalvo, a CH-53E crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor with HMH-461. â€œThey had the manuals for the Chinook and were the subject matter experts. We took our cue from them and working together we were able to bring the aircraft back to Kandaharâ€
Prior to launching the mission, the HMH-461 planners had a number of factors to consider.
â€œOur maintenance section had to strip over two tons of unnecessary parts off the CH-53s in order to enable them to execute this lift,â€ Steward-Campbell, a Carson City, Nev., native said. â€œAlmost everything, with the exception of the engines and rotor blades, had to be removed from the aircraft with only eight hours notice.â€
Decreasing the weight of the aircraft was not the only factor taken into consideration before the mission.
â€œThe zone was extremely challenging for us, mostly due to the dust,â€ Steward-Campbell said. â€œWe had reduced the weight of the aircraft, so it had sufficient power, but the dust made it difficult to find reference over the ground, but itâ€™s the mission we train for and we accomplished it.â€
This mission marks the second time the Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., based squadron has been called upon to perform a tactical aircraft recovery during their current deployment to Afghanistan.
â€œWe are the premier TRAP and heavy-lift asset in-theater,â€ said Montalvo, a Eureka, Calif., native. â€I think this mission went very well. We had multiple agencies and multiple countries working together. We went in with an international effort and got the job done.â€
See also HeliHub.com page on this accident -> 16-May-11 Boeing CH-47 Panjwaii district, Afghanistan