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Thursday, February 1, 2007

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NY Airways Was There

You recently discussed the West 30th Street heliport’s golden anniversary ("NY’s West 30th St. Heliport Marks 50 Years," December 2006, page 13). But you failed to mention that, at the heliport’s inception, the FAR Part 127 scheduled helicopter airline New York Airways operated float-equipped Sikorsky S-55s from there. We also flew Bell 47s on charter flights. Those were real thrilling days, some of the best in aviation history.

Ed Propper

Former Vice President of Technical Services

New York Airways

Columbia, Md.

"They’re Just Uneducated"

I read Sgt. Ernie Stephens’ article in August and have just had a chance to respond ("They’re Just Uneducated," August 2006, page 62). I’ve chaired the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police’s aviation committee since the early 1990s and made a presentation on this topic at the group’s annual conference in 2005.

The issue of "uneducated" police aviation unit managers has been my passion for a long time. While I think we’ve made some improvements, it is still a big problem in our business. By the way, we only had one person from the target audience attend the 2005 workshop (aside from my committee members and some of the Airborne Law Enforcement Assn. folks).

Chief Donald L. Shinnamon, Sr.

Director, City of Holly Hill Public Safety

Holly Hill, Fla.

Transport Sleight of Hand

I enjoyed Giovanni de Briganti’s recent column about military transports ("Transport Helicopter Sleight of Hand," December 2006, page 62).

He mentioned the CH-46, which I flew in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967 to 1971, with a tour in Vietnam (1969-70). That workhorse is still doing the job in Iraq close to 40 years later. The CH-46 did it all — medevac, hook work, reconnaissance — and is still doing it all.

I wonder how many more years it will take before the V-22 becomes fully operational. It will be obsolete before it is ever on the deck in MCAS New River, N.C.

De Briganti hits home. Many governments are trying to cut costs on the back of their transport fleets. At least the Marine Corps had the CH-46 to fall back on all these years.

Col. Erling O. Rolfson, U.S. Army Reserve (retired)

New Rockford, N.D.

Chinooks for CSAR?

What do I think of the U.S. Air Force’s choice of the Chinook as its next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopter? I have been in and around Boeing Chinooks since 1967 and, in my professional opinion, the Air Force is making a very hasty and big mistake in procuring 141 Chinooks for the following reasons:

First, mission-capable rates are very low for Chinooks. After I retired from the U.S. Army in 1996, I was a GS-12 aviation maintenance analyst for 234 USAF aircraft. The Air Force demands a higher mission-capable rate than the Army, one the -47 will be incapable of sustaining.

Second, the Chinook airframe design is old. Although it has been re-engineered and up-engined many times, it’s still an old aircraft.

Third, the old Boeing-Air Force partnership is ripe for more corruption and a flawed/biased qualification process. The competitors, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, have already filed protests of the contract award.

Fourth, although the Air Force has wrecked a few H-60 Pave Hawks in high-altitude missions, that was because of pilot error and not a flawed aircraft design. The Air Force still considers its helicopter pilots second-class citizens; the worst airplane pilots become its helo drivers. This has always been a challenge, in that Air Force leaders do not recruit, hire, and train good helo pilots, nor do they appreciate their expertise. (It has never had any generals who were helo pilots. It does not train helo pilots properly for high-altitude missions.)

Fifth, the -47 is too heavy, too cumbersome, and not very maneuverable.

CW4 Richard Dickson, U.S. Army (retired)

Papillion, Neb.

We asked Boeing and the Air Force about some of these issues, given that the U.S. General Accounting Office is slated to rule by month’s end on the protests of the Combat Search-and-Rescue-X contract (before either would have a chance to read Mr. Dickson’s letter here and respond).

The HH-47 is based on the redesigned Chinook the U.S. Army is now testing as the MH-47G and CH-47F. The redesign includes an airframe intended to reduce structural fatigue and a new cockpit, new engines, and other elements aimed at improving reliability. Boeing HH-47 Program Manager Rick LeMaster said the mission-capable rate of the new-design aircraft, once they enter service, should set a new standard compared to older-generation Chinooks.

According to the Air Force, several of its helicopter pilots have become general officers. These include Maj. Gen. Donald C. Wurster, vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, and Maj. Gen. John H. Folkerts, who has commanded the only Air Force CSAR wing, the 347th Rescue Wing. The service also has improved its high-altitude training. — The Editor

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