What is the RAF Chinook Display Team?

1.0    Introduction

This article provides an overview of the Royal Air Force’s Chinook Display Team.

2.0    What is the Purpose of the RAF Chinook Display Team?

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook Display Team (CDT) displays (almost) every year throughout the season at a number of national air shows using commentary and air movements to give the general public a flavour of what it is like to operate as part of the Chinook Helicopter Force on operation.

3.0    Where is the RAF Chinook Display Team Based?

The RAF CDT is located at RAF Odiham, Hook in Hampshire.

“RAF Odiham is a front line support helicopter base working within the Joint Helicopter Command.” (RAF, 2019).

RAF Odiham, officially opened in 1937, provides support to UK military operations globally. It is home to the UK Chinook Helicopter Force (CHF).

4.0    Organisation of the RAF Chinook Display Team

The RAF CDT is made up of pilots, engineers and ground crew from the RAF Chinook Helicopter Force (CHF).

The RAF CDT draws aircraft from three squadrons, all part of the CHF within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC):

  • 7 Squadron:
    • The last Royal Flying Corps (RFC) unit to be established prior to World War One, forming in 1914.
    • It was the first unit to operate four-engined bombers in World War Two.
    • Aircraft flown by the squadron include: Lancaster (bomber); Valiant (bomber); Canberra (bomber); and Chinook.
  • 18 Squadron:
    • Established at RAF Northolt in 1915.
    • Provided the sole Chinook (call-sign Bravo November) in the Falklands War in 1982, out of 5 deployed. Three Chinooks were destroyed on 25 May 1982 when Atlantic Conveyor was struck by an Exocet sea-skimming missile fired by an Argentine Super Étendard.
    • Aircraft flown by the squadron include: Blenheim I and IV (bomber); Valiant; Wessex (helicopter); and Chinook.
  • 27 Squadron:
    • Established at Hounslow Heath in 1914.
    • Aircraft flown by the squadron include: Martinsyde G100 ‘Elephant’ (bomber); Dakota C4 (transport); Tornado GR1 (multi-role); Puma (helicopter); and Chinook.

5.0    What is the Chinook Helicopter?

The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is an American twin-engined, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter developed by American rotorcraft company Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol (later known as Boeing Rotorcraft Systems). The CH-47 is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. Its name, Chinook, is from the Native American Chinook people of modern-day Washington State.

The Chinook was originally designed by Vertol, with work commencing in 1957. Its first flight was on 21 September 1961, being introduced into US Army service on 16 August 1962 (Boeing Mediaroom, 2012). It had a top speed of 170 knots (196 mph or 315 kmh).

Between 1962 and 2012, approximately 1,200 had been manufactured and delivered to 18 operators around the world, with more than 800 operating (Boeing Mediaroom, 2012). In August 2012, Boeing celebrated the 50th anniversary of delivering the first H-47 Chinook military helicopter (Boeing Mediaroom, 2012).

Within the RAF, the Chinook is a support helicopter, primarily utilised for:

  • Transporting troops;
  • Transporting vehicles and equipment, both internally and underslung;
  • Resupply; and
  • Battlefield casualty evacuation.

Secondary roles can include:

  • Humanitarian relief;
  • Search and rescue; and
  • Specialist tasks, for example the national resilience commitment to respond to domestic emergencies.
    • Think moving aggregate to reconstruct or reinforce flood defences.

The crew of a Chinook is typically composed of two pilots (officers) and two crewmen (enlisted).

Dependent on the mission profile, the crew may be supplemented by other military personnel. A Chinook can carry up to:

  • 55 troops; or
  • 10 tonnes of mixed cargo.

As of 2019, the Chinook fleet is undergoing a period of upgrading as part of the Chinook Sustainment Programme, which aims to recapitalise existing airframes by extending capability out to 2040.

  • Mk 6 aircraft:
    • Several new-build aircraft have arrived at Mk 6 standard, incorporating both glass cockpit avionics and benefiting from a Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS, pronounced ‘daffics’), which greatly enhances handling and safety, particularly when operating in recirculating dust or snow conditions.
  • Mk 6A aircraft:
    • Older Mk 4 aircraft have also been upgraded with the same systems to establish them as Mk 6A’s.
  • Mk 5 aircraft:
    • Cockpit and DAFCS upgrades have transformed older Mk 3’s into the new Mk 5.
  • There are also a number of extended-range ‘fat tank’ aircraft, which carry double the fuel load of a standard Chinook.

The civilian version of the Chinook is known as the Boeing Vertol 234. It has been used for a variety of purposes by a range of different civil operators, having often been used for passenger and cargo transport, along with niche roles such as aerial fire-fighting and to support various industrial activities, including logging, construction, and oil extraction.

6.0    Useful Publications

  • Mercer, T. (2019) Blade Slap: A Year with the RAF Chinook Display Team. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.
  • McNab, C. (2014) RAF Chinook Manual (Owners Workshop Manual. Somerset: J.H. Haynes & Co Ltd.

7.0    Useful Links

8.0    References

Boeing Mediaroom. (2012) Boeing Marks 50 Years of Delivering Chinook Helicopters. Available from World Wide Web: https://boeing.mediaroom.com/news-releases-statements?item=2389. [Accessed: 25 August, 2019].

RAF (Royal Air Force). (2019) RAF Odiham. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/stations/raf-odiham/. [Accessed: 25 August, 2019].


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