HOW TO LAND A CH-47C CHINOOK INVERTED
by Mike Maloy
How to Land a CH-47C Chinook Inverted
(and live to crawl away from it)
By: Mike Maloy, former CWO-2
I arrived in country on December 31, 1968 and the Chinooks from
Pachyderms, A Co. 159, ASHB, 101st Airborne picked us up at Danang and
dropped us at Phu Bai at about 2350 hrs. just in time to watch the
perimeter light up like the 4th of July. I was with C Co. 159 ASHB, 101st.
Playtex. We spent the next couple of weeks building hootches and bunkers
and filling sand bags, and of course, constructing our company O Club, a
top priority, and getting AO orientation from the guys in Pachyderms and
The last week in January a bunch of us were sent TDY to Dong Ha and
eventually the Rockpile up by the DMZ to support the Marines in the north
end of the Ashau.
On February 10, 1969 Captain Kelly Williams was the A.C. and I was the
pilot. I believe our aircraft number was 67-18501. We had been flying
combat re-supply missions all day into LZ Erskine in the north end of the
Ashau valley in I Corps and on the last three or four approaches we were
getting mortar fire when we approached the LZ and had to break off our
approach and go around several times because of sporadic enemy fire. We
were delivering ammo and food into the LZ and taking out wounded.
At approximately 1700 hours we went back to Dong Ha to refuel and all the
Chinooks were going to head back to Phu Bai. While refueling we were
notified by Marine Division at Vandergriff (or the Rockpile---Iím not sure
which it was) that they had one more load of 105mm ammo to go out to
Erskine and four Marines who needed a ride back to Erskine. Williams told
them that we would take the passengers and the load and then head for Phu
Bai from LZ Erskine. After refueling we picked up the four Marines and
then picked up the load of approximately 10,000 pounds of 105mm ammo in a
sling load and headed back to Erskine.
During the day we had problems with the beep sticking several times but it
always seemed to fix itself before it became a serious problem so we
continued to fly missions.
At approximately 1750 hours we were on final approach into Erskine with the
slingload and Marine passengers and me at the controls, when we saw a puff
of smoke and dust on the LZ and the Marine on Erskine told us to go around
because they were taking mortar fire. We circled out into the Ashau valley
and made a second approach with me at the controls in the right seat. We
still had the four Marine passengers on board.
I shot my approach to the ground with the slingload and set the load down
but didnít get it where they wanted it and they asked us to move it.
Because of the altitude, the heat, the 10,000 pound slingload, and the fact
that we had just refueled, we were very heavy and we had to shoot the
approach to the ground rather than bringing it to a hover. At that point
Williams took the controls and said he would move the load. He told me
that with the periodic enemy fire he didnít want to stay over the LZ any
longer than necessary. We took off from the LZ with the slingload and made
a tight 360 degree pattern to come back to the LZ. I doubt that we ever
got above 60 or 70 knots during that 360 and we were never very far from LZ
Erskine and had it in sight the entire time.
As we approached Erskine the third time with the slingload, and while on
short final (about 150 yards from the perimeter of the LZ and at about 35
knots) we experienced a beep failure on No. 1. I followed through with
emergency procedures for a beep failure and Williams said he was going to
dive down the side of the mountain to try and gain airspeed and save the
load. As we dove down the side of the mountain I saw that we were losing
rotor rpm to the point that it was critical. When the rpm hit about 200 I
yelled at Williams to punch the load off, and almost immediately afterwards
I told the flight engineer to release the load and at the same time I hit
the emergency release switch. When nothing happened and we still had the
load I recycled the switch 3 or 4 times.
To this day I can recall all the way through flight school being told that
if a switch doesnít work, recycle it. Unfortunately, with the emergency
release switch, it operates on compressed air and by recycling it all I was
doing was bleeding off a little bit of air pressure each time so it never
blew the hook open. I was told some months later that the Army made an
amendment to the TM-55 Chinook operatorís manual advising pilots not to
recycle the emergency hook release switch for this reason.
The flight engineer was never able to reach the manual release handle on
the hook because we were bouncing around so much due to extremely low rotor
The load never released and according to the report I saw back in 1969 when
I got out of the hospital it stated that the load finally caught in the
tree tops and pulled us into the ground nose first. My last recollection
of the rotor rpm was that it was passing through 170 and going down fast.
When I regained consciousness I was hanging upside down in my shoulder
harness and the entire cockpit was gone except for my seat and Williams in
his seat. The instrument panel, cyclic stick, pedals and center console
and overhead console were all gone. I couldnít see or talk very well
because I had a lot of blood in my eyes and all over my face and I was
choking on blood and bone in my throat. I tried to take my flight helmet
off but it took me several tries because my left jaw bone was sticking out
through my neck and the chin strap was tangled around the bone. Once I got
the helmet off I looked back through the companionway and all I could see
I knew we had almost a full load of fuel so I yelled at Williams and told
him we had to get out immediately. I saw him undo his shoulder harness and
fall down into the jungle and then I did the same. Kelly got up and ran
and I tried to but when I got to my knees the nerves in my back were
pinched and I fell flat on my face. I tried several times to get up and
couldnít so I started crawling away from the aircraft. I made it about 20
feet from the aircraft and then the crew chief saw me and came back and
dragged me away as the aircraft blew up.
WO-1 Gene Collings from Playtex was notified by the Marines on Erskine that
we had gone down in the jungle and he came back from somewhere near Camp
Eagle and tried to pick us up from the jungle but couldnít get to us because
trees. We crashed about 300 yards down the mountain from the LZ and the
marines sent a squad down to us to provide cover from the VC. They set up
a small perimeter around us and I recall hearing them firing at the enemy
occasionally while we waited for a rescue aircraft. We were so far away
from the LZ that the Marine squad opted to stay there with us rather than
try to carry us back up the mountain to the LZ. After what seemed like a
couple of hours a Marine CH-46 was able to get in and pick us up and take
us to the hospital ship Repose.
The entire crew got out alive with me being the most seriously injured.
Unfortunately three of our four Marine passengers were killed when they
were thrown from the aircraft before impact due to violent gyrations caused
by extremely low rotor rpm. Apparently they were not strapped in.
I suffered simple fractures of the upper and lower right jaw, simple
fracture of the upper left jaw, compound fracture of the lower left jaw,
compression fractures of six vertebrae in my lower spine, loss of a tooth,
and numerous cuts, and burns. They had me in surgery all that night and
when I came to the sun was just coming up and I could see the beginnings of
daylight through the porthole in our room on the ship. Four days later I
was transferred to Danang and about 12 hours later was flown to Trippler
Army hospital in Hawaii. I was there for 30 days and then transferred to
Brooke Army Medical Center in Ft. Sam Houston where I stayed until May when
I was released for convalescent leave.
After getting out of the hospital I was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia
for two weeks at which time I called the Pentagon and requested immediate
reassignment back to Vietnam. I arrived back in Vietnam on July 4, 1969
and completed my second tour with Playtex ďCĒ Company, 159th ASHB, 101