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CAP Members Fly in a Chinook Helicopter

posted Mar 2, 2020, 6:15 PM by lana mark

Story by Cadet/CMSgt Michael Costello, Dallas Composite Squadron TX-391

CAP members recently had the opportunity to fly in a CH-47 Chinook Helicopter operated by the Texas Army National Guard. This event happened on September 30, 2019, at the Dallas Army Aviation Support Facility (DAASF) in Grand Prairie.

The Chinook Helicopter is a twin rotor heavy lift helicopter that has been used by the US military since 1962.  The Chinook is the fastest and most powerful helicopter in the US military. 

Cadets and Seniors met up at a Shell gas station in Grand Prairie at 9:00 am.  There were members from Dallas, Weatherford, Granbury, and Italy squadrons.  Then we entered the base by bus and met our flight crew who gave us briefings.  Our group was so large we split up into two groups.  The first group flew in the Chinook while the second toured the maintenance facility, then the groups switched so everyone got to fly and tour the maintenance facility

When the Group 1 Cadets and Seniors boarded the helicopter, the flight crew passed out ear protection; as expected it was very loud.  The Chinook we flew on had recently returned from service delivering hay bales to a farm in Houston after the farm had flooded, trapping cattle on a small island without food, a typical public service mission.  The Chinook took off from the DAASF loaded with hay, then delivered the hay directly to the cattle on the island.  When we boarded the Chinook, you could still see bits of hay left behind. 

The weather was clear with scattered clouds.  It was bumpy. The seats were folding canvas benches running the length of the helicopter. The seatbelts were the type you see on an airliner, and were kept tightly secured the entire flight, especially when the cargo door at the back was lowered inflight.  As 1st Lt Joan Gulliksen said, “opening the cargo door was so exciting!”  A crew member stood at the brink tethered to a safety line – not a job for the faint-hearted.

The flight lasted about 30 minutes, and we flew at about 1000 feet altitude.  Our flight plan took us north dead center over DFW airport, between the north-south runways, with jumbo jets taking off on both sides. Then we flew a loop over Grapevine Lake, around downtown Ft Worth, and back to our starting point, enjoying unique aerial views of Six Flags and AT&T Stadium on the way.

After the flight for Group 1, Capt Toby Blair, a former CAP cadet himself, took us on a tour of the maintenance hall which had 6 Chinooks inside.  We learned why correct maintenance is so important, and how the slightest error in maintenance could destroy a Chinook – and its crew and passengers.  The mechanic’s work is intellectually challenging, but it is also gratifying because the mechanic’s ultimate job is to continually save lives every day.

The event concluded once the 2nd group returned.  We took group pictures, and we thanked the flight crew for having us at their base. It was a privilege to witness the skill and dedication of the Texas Army National Guard.  Maj Lana Holub spoke for us all when she said, “The cadets and I are so grateful to Capt Blair for arranging this trip. We had a wonderful time and the memories will last a lifetime!”

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