Columbia Helicopters has been working with the Australian Army on preparations for the return of two CH 47D Chinook helicopters from Afghanistan. The two helicopters flew some 5,600 missions since deployed there in 2006.
The Portland-based company, which has a global reputation for expertise in maintenance of the CH 47 and other Boeing Vertol-built twin-rotor helicopter types, has been engaged in the project since August of this year, under a contract with the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The work is being carried out in Kandahar with a staff of 15, including mechanics and electricians, as well as quality control and supervisory personnel. The crews have averaged 10-hour days, and six-day weeks, according to Todd Petersen, Columbia Helicopters’ Vice-President, Marketing.
Petersen explained that under the contract, Columbia Helicopters’ technicians also performed heavy phase maintenance on the helicopters, prior to preparation for shipping. “We have had a three-year presence in Kandahar working with the Australians, and this is the third year in a row that we have carried out a major inspection for them on the CH 47D,” he noted.
Preparing the helicopters for shipment, reported Petersen, involved the removal of the rotor blades and heads, forward transmission, aft pylons and aft vertical shafts. Those components, along with the helicopter airframes, will be loaded aboard a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing C17 cargo plane for transportation to the 5th Aviation Regiment at the RAAF base in Townsville, Queensland. “Columbia Helicopters maintenance crews will accompany the helicopters to Townsville, where they will reassemble the aircraft,” said Petersen, adding that the project is scheduled to wrap up by late November.
But he also pointed out that while the project coincides with the pull-out of the Australian Army from Afghanistan, Columbia Helicopters will continue to have a full-time, on-site presence in Townsville, assisting the Australian Army with maintenance support on the CH 47D for at least the next several years.
“It has been a privilege for Columbia Helicopters to have worked with the ADF over the past three years, and we look forward to continuing that relationship,” Petersen remarked.
Columbia Helicopters is a member of the American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA), theWashington, DC-headquartered trade association representing the private aerial firefighting industry.
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