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What It’s Like to Fly a Chinook Mission with the Army Guard

What It’s Like to Fly a Chinook Mission with the Army Guard

When the Illinois Army National Guard invited Sam Eckholm to take a ride in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter it took him about two seconds to respond. “Are you kidding?” he said. “I jumped at the chance. The Chinook is the most iconic and recognizable helicopter ever built. Taking a flight was definitely on my bucket list.”

A popular social media creator, photographer and videographer with more than a half-million followers, Sam’s passion for aviation – or anything military for that matter – is well documented. You can see for yourself on his YouTube channel and follow him as “sameckholm” on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter.

In past episodes, Sam visited the F-35 assembly line at Lockheed-Martin, tried the Air Force Special Forces fitness test and flew in the back seat of a T-38 fighter-training jet, which caused him to wish he had another kind of bucket. “Yeah, the pilot was a friend of mine and he wanted to give me the ‘full experience,’” Sam remembers. “So, yes, I did throw up. But that doesn’t change the fact that the T-38 flight was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

While not nearly as harrowing, flying in the Chinook was also a memorable experience for Sam, who got to ride in both the cockpit jump-seat and cargo area of the Army’s premier heavy-lift helicopter and tell the world about his experience.

“I was really impressed, first, by the massive size of the Chinook,” he said. “It’s 52 feet long and when you include the rotors, it’s a mind-boggling 98 feet in diameter. But even with all that girth, it’s capable of speeds up to 170 knots – that’s 196 miles per hour – so the Chinook can straight-up cruise through the sky to deliver cargo and troops to the battlefield.”

Honeywell’s legendary T55 engine is the not-so-well-kept secret behind the helicopter’s speed and heavy-lift capabilities. A pair of T55s has powered the Chinook on every flight since its first in 1961. The current version, the T55-714A, is the most powerful yet and Honeywell is getting ready to introduce the T55-714C, which will take the Chinook into the future.

“Hearing the engines crank up and feeling the rotor-wash before I got on the aircraft was really exhilarating,” Sam remembers. “When you’re inside the helicopter you can really feel the horsepower and it’s exciting to know that the next-generation T55 engine will be even more powerful. Honeywell’s done a great job of constantly improving the engines over the years to meet the Army’s needs.”

As much as he enjoys his ride-alongs on military aircraft, the Air Force Academy graduate has a higher mission. “One of my goals is to increase awareness of the contributions made by the military and the aerospace industry, including companies like Honeywell,” Sam said. “I’m always impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the people I encounter, like the pilot and flight engineer I interview for the CH-47 piece. It’s a real privilege to help tell their amazing stories.”

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