A video made the rounds awhile back of a CH-47 Chinook pulling off an amazing rescue on the slopes of Mt. Hood in central Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you may be wondering just how the heck that happened — after all, the Chinook is a very big helo that isn’t known for its maneuverability, like the Apache, or its versatility, like the Blackhawk. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it below.
The maneuver used on Mt. Hood, an active volcano that reaches about 11,240 feet high according to the United States Geological Service, is not exactly unusual. This technique is known as a “pinnacle landing” and has been commonly performed by the Chinook in combat theaters, most notably Afghanistan. The concept is simple — execution, however, is not. To carry out this kind of landing, the CH-47 pilot will orient the aircraft so that the aft gear is on the terrain while the front gear remains in midair. Personnel and cargo can then be loaded (or unloaded) in otherwise treacherous terrain.
This same approach works for rooftops as well. This technique allows small units to be delivered to otherwise inaccessible locations, which is an awesome advantage for American and allied troops. According to a release by the Canadian Forces, the maneuver isn’t mechanically difficult, but requires a good deal of crew coordination as the pilots up front are operating blindly.
“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,” Major Robert Tyler explained in the release.
One of the earliest recorded instances of employing this landing technique was in 2002, during the Battle of Tora Bora. That theater, in particular, is known for sheer cliffs and steep crags, making this technique an essential for depositing and extracting troops.
It’s not often that we see this maneuver get caught on video, which is what makes the recent Mt. Hood rescue such a rare affair.
What’s most impressive about this is that the CH-47 in question was flown by National Guard personnel.
The CH-47, a transport helicopter, isn’t exactly known for its search-and-rescue capabilities, but if it weren’t for some political maneuverings, these types of rescues would be much more common.