Pinnacle Landing – A delicate balancing act in a big helicopter

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Article / August 3, 2016

By: Captain Graham Kallos, RIMPAC 2016 Combined Information Bureau and Major Robert Tyler, Officer Commanding A Flight, 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron

“I was manoeuvring the aircraft according to the direction I was receiving from the other crew members,” says Captain Dylan Martin, A Flight First Officer. “They are the ones who had visual references to our landing spot.”

A Canadian CH-147 Chinook crew recently conducted a training mission with the Reconnaissance Platoon from the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment (2 R22R), as part of the Canadian contingent deployed to Southern California for Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016 (RIMPAC 16).

The aim was to train the aircrew and soldiers on advanced loading and unloading procedures, all while flying and landing in mountainous terrain.

One of the skills the CH-147 pilots practiced during RIMPAC was loading and unloading soldiers in the mountains using what are referred to as “Pinnacle Landings.” These types of landings are normally done in areas where there is not enough room to land the helicopter, and a rear wheel landing is the only option.

Once over the landing area, the pilots cannot see where the wheels will touch down. Depending on just how steep the terrain is and how high they are, they may have very few references to judge the location of the helicopter in relation to their landing point.

Major Robert Tyler is the Officer Commanding for A Flight, 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron; he was the Aircraft Captain mentoring Captain Martin throughout the Pinnacle Landing. 

“We land the Chinook on only the rear wheels,” he says. “The manoeuvre is not overly difficult, but requires a great deal of crew coordination. We are very reliant on the Flight Engineers and Loadmasters in the back to help land the aircraft -- they are in the best position to pick the exact landing point and then provide us with a constant verbal picture of where the wheels are.”

Once the CH-147 was stable enough to execute the pick-up, the 2 R22R soldiers entered the half-landed, half-hovering aircraft by running up the helicopter’s ramp under the strict supervision of the Chinook’s Flight Engineers. The ramp was then closed and the helicopter flew away with its new passengers.

Conducting this sort of training, especially within the context of RIMPAC 16, adds to the relationship that 1 Wing has with the Canadian Army.  Based out of Garrison Petawawa, the CH-147 crews live and work with 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group on a daily basis, but do not always get the opportunity to train with other Canadian Army units.

“Seizing the opportunity to train and work with a different unit allows us to improve our planning and mission execution Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs),” asserts Major Tyler. “These relationships and SOPs will be crucial when we find ourselves deployed elsewhere in the world.”

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