A group from the Program Executive Office for Aviation has been recognized by the Army for their environmental improvements to the Army’s cargo helicopter aircraft and equipment.
The Secretary of the Army selected the System Safety Environmental Working Group from PEO-Aviation’s Cargo Helicopters project office to receive the Environmental Award for Excellence in Weapons System Acquisition for their efforts on the CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
The CH-47 Chinook is a twin-engine, tandem rotor helicopter designed and produced in the early 1960s and is the Army’s only heavy-lift cargo helicopter. Recent changes to a Block II configuration include a more efficient drivetrain, new swept-tip rotor blades and a strengthened fuselage that allows for heavier payloads. By reducing the six fuel tanks to two, the lighter Block II is also capable of carrying more fuel.
Changes of this magnitude don’t just happen without careful oversight, and that is where the SSEWG group comes into the equation. The group analyzes and tracks environmental, safety and occupational health (ESOH) issues associated with Block II.
“It’s critical to the Block II upgrade that we integrate ESOH mitigation efforts early in the acquisition process to avoid program delays and high costs associated with late identification of hazards and risks,” said Col. Greg Fortier, Cargo Helicopters Project Manager. “Addressing ESOH issues throughout the program not only reduces those risks to the aircraft user and the maintainer, it also reduces the burden on Army installations where the aircraft will be fielded through reduced environmental risks and liability.”
The SSEWG achieves its goals by meticulously logging safety hazards and tracking resolution actions. The group oversees the contractor pollution prevention programs, tracks projects that eliminate hazardous material (hazmat) in the aircraft design, recommends environmental compliance and provides recommendations for establishing or revising system safety requirements.
A cross-section of representatives from the U.S. Army and industry comprise the group, which is chaired by the Program Executive Office for Aviation: U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command, U.S. Army Aviation Logistics Center, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Boeing Helicopters, Honeywell Aerospace and Rockwell Collins. The group meets semiannually to address environmental risks, regulations, policies and potential compliance issues. Thus far, the SSEWG has successfully communicated, implemented and executed ESOH requirements to the team, as well as discussed lessons learned and applied across all the supporting disciplines.
Several technical accomplishments reflect the tenacity of the SSEWG. For example, rigorous laboratory tests and data analysis showed corrosion surface treatment met or exceeded all requirements necessary to replace the chromate surface treatments for cast magnesium surfaces. The project manager for Cargo Helicopters thus adopted an advanced coating system, which reduces the amount of chromium on the CH-47 aircraft and will reduce parts rejection.
The horizontal hinge pin had to be redesigned to meet the CH-47F Block II program’s greater lift capacity and is compatible with all F and G models of the aircraft.
To meet ozone depleting substance regulations, the SSEWG pursued multiple replacement efforts, resulting in a new hand-held fire extinguisher that may be used on the CH-47F Block II following successful testing.
All of these efforts by the SSEWG ensure a safe and environmentally acceptable design, including the production, fielding and operation of Block II aircraft with minimal effect on mission effectiveness and program cost.
The SSEWG will go on to compete against other military services in April at the Secretary of Defense’s competition.
Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Cargo Helicopter Project Office mission is to establish and maintain a dynamic learning organization which provides the war fighters with affordable world class heavy lift cargo helicopters and related services, which are continually improved to meet user needs while balancing life cycle cost reductions with increases in operational readiness.
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