What is a Chinook Helicopter?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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The Chinook helicopter or CH-47 is an aircraft manufactured by Boeing for use as an all purpose transport helicopter. Boeing's two largest customers for the design are the United States and the Royal Air Force in Britain, and Chinooks can be seen in use all over the world, in a variety of settings. While many people associate this helicopter with military missions, Boeing also produces versions for civilian use, and private operators use Chinooks for task like medical evacuations and supply deliveries in remote areas.

Original versions of the design were produced in the 1950s by request from the United States military, which wanted to upgrade its existing helicopter fleets. By 1962, the CH-47 was in service, and the helicopters became a distinctive sight during the Vietnam War. Upgrades and variations on the Chinook helicopter are constantly in development; by 2009, the military had worked its way from the CH-47 to the CH-47F, with the special forces using their own customized version, the CH-47E.

These helicopters have a twin engine, dual rotor design. They are capable of hauling significant amounts of equipment, and up to 36 personnel, including a three person crew. Like many aircraft, the Chinook helicopter is filled with failsafes which are designed to keep it in the air. The helicopter can run on a single engine alone, for example, and military models have a number of countermeasures available for use, ranging from chaff dispensers to draw enemy fire to mounted machine guns and cannon.


In the military, the Chinook helicopter is used to move troops, supplies, and equipment. In remote areas, access may only be available by helicopter, and the rigging system of the Chinook allows it to bring in vehicles, heavy artillery, and other equipment which would otherwise be impossible to bring to isolated regions. Since mobility is an important characteristic for military forces, the Chinook helicopter is a valuable tool, as it keeps troops on the go and ensures that supplies end up where they are needed.

Civilian versions of the Chinook helicopter lack the military features such as countermeasures which can be used in combat, but they are built to the same standards of reliability and sturdiness as the military models. The maximum gross weight of the CH-47 is 50,000 pounds (23,000 kilograms), allowing the helicopter to carry a significant load, although it is important to load and balance the helicopter properly to ensure optimal performance.


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