|CH-47 Restoration Project at Fort Eustis, VA|
This historic aircraft is the second prototype for the venerable Boeing Vertol CH-47 line of aircraft. Constructed in 1959 as Boeing MFG Number B-003, tail number 94984 started life with the designation YCH-1B. This aircraft became only the second Chinook to take flight when it was first test flown on 21 September 1961. Boeing Vertol’s test pilot, Leonard La Vasson flew B-003 outside of Philadelphia near Morton Grove, PA. In 1962, the aircraft designation changed to YCH-47A and an extra digit was added to the tail number to meet new standards. In September 1962, helicopter 94984 was used to train the first mechanics class held at the Boeing factory at RidleyPark, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The US Army took delivery of the aircraft on 17 January 1964, and in 1967, the aircraft’s designation was once again changed to YCH-47B when it was used as the test aircraft for the “B” model Chinook. It took flight as a newly designated B Model on September 9, 1966.
The Chinook was never assigned to an operational unit, instead it spent its flying career as a test aircraft for the US Army and the Army finally released the aircraft in May of 1970. Following its test career, this Chinook was used as a maintenance trainer at Ft Eustis to train 67U maintenance personnel until 1975 when it was retired from active service.
Post Service History:
In the early 1990’s this aircraft was sitting in a field owned by Southeast Equipment Corporation (SECO) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After efforts to fully restore the aircraft fell short it was turned over to the Museum in 1992. The aircraft was damaged in shipment to Fort Eustis and then sat outside at Felker Army Air Field for over 10 years before moving to the museum. During its time sitting on the tarmac, the helicopter was picked over for replacement parts by volunteers attempting to restore another early model Chinook (Guns-a-Go Go). By the time the museum moved the aircraft away from the airfield, it had been stripped of numerous major components and almost the entire interior was gone. Attempts to restore 59-04984 proved hard due to the difficulty of finding early model parts and the high cost of restoration work which was not in the museum’s budget.
Recent Restoration History:
Efforts to help bring the helicopter back to life began once again in 2010 when a group of NCOs attending training at Fort Eustis volunteered their time to work on the aircraft. Over the next two years different groups or individuals attending the aviation NCO courses at Fort Eustis would volunteer their time to help work on the aircraft. Much progress was made with several panels being reinstalled, the aft transmission was placed back in place and an aft ramp was fashioned to replace the missing ramp. Unfortunately the amount of work, degree of difficulty and lack of components made it very difficult to make any sizable headway.
Then in 2012, the museum was contacted by the Information Management Cargo Helicopters Project Manager's Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The new boss there knew of the CH-47and the historical significance of it and wanted to know what could be done to preserve it. NCO instructors for the CH-47 course at the same time requested to help and agreed to commit to working on the historic aircraft whenever they could. This lead to a comprehensive inspection which listed every major or critical component missing or damaged on the Chinook. Attempts to locate these components led to discussions with Redstone Arsenal and subsequently the civilian contracted company, Summit Aviation which holds the maintenance contract for the refurbishment of Chinook airframes for the US Government. They also are contracted to work on Chinooks from several other countries and therefore had the network and expertise to tackle the huge task of reviving helicopter 59-04984.
Through continued discussions and official requests, Summit was given the approval to accept 59-04984 into the reset program at no cost to the Transportation Museum or its command. The Chinook instructors with the 128th Aviation Brigade then began to prepare the aircraft for the journey north to Summit’s maintenance facilities in Delaware. It took several weeks of coordinated efforts between the museum staff, the experienced NCOs and the teams from Summit to remove major components and secure the aircraft for transport.
On Thursday May 2rd, 2013 59-04984 and her components were loaded onto two trucks and transported to the Summit facilities. The restoration work is expected to take up to one year, but when this historic aircraft returns to the museum it will be fully restored to displayable condition both inside and out.
Follow the Progress:
This link will be updated regularly to document the restoration efforts and its progress. Follow the world’s oldest Chinook as it is brought back to life. If you are interested in helping the Army Transportation Museum in its continuing efforts to preserve this artifact and others like it, please contact the museum or the Army Transportation Museum Foundation. Our next aviation project will be the Sikorsky VH-34 Presidential Helicopter used to fly President John F. Kennedy.