The U.S. Army has ordered its entire fleet of CH-47 Chinook helicopters – approximately 400 — grounded this week over engine fires, The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday.
Officials told the publication that The U.S. Army Materiel Command grounded the Chinook helicopters after engine fires had occurred “in recent days” but had not caused injury or death. The grounding went into effect on Monday or Tuesday, according to officials.
The suspected cause of the engine fire is a fuel leak attributed to a part found in more than 70 of the helicopters with Honeywell engines, officials told WSJ.
Army Spokesperson Cynthia Smith confirmed the grounding in a statement to American Military News.
“The Army has identified the root cause of fuel leaks that caused a small number of engine fires among an isolated number of H-47 helicopters and is implementing corrective measures to resolve this issue. Based on the results of our investigation some aircraft may not require corrective measures and may soon return to normal flight operations,” Smith said.
“While no deaths or injuries occurred, the Army temporarily grounded the H-47 fleet out of an abundance of caution, until those corrective actions are complete. The safety of our Soldiers is the Army’s top priority, and we will ensure our aircraft remain safe and airworthy,” Smith added.
The Chinook – named for the Chinook Native American Tribe – was built by Boeing. It was introduced in 1961 and was prominently used in the Vietnam War. The helicopter also played a major role in Desert Storm.
It is capable of holding up to 26,000 pounds of cargo or 55 personnel, and can travel at speeds of up to 160 knots. It is the only heavy-lift cargo chopper to support combat operations, according to the U.S. Army.
Boeing has been upgrading the Chinook to the Block II upgrade program with “redesigned fuel tanks, a strengthened fuselage, and an improved drivetrain.”
Last month, a Chinook helicopter with two military veteran pilots crashed while battling a wildfire in Idaho. Both pilots were killed on impact. The pilots were employed by ROTAK Helicopter Services in Anchorage and had been contracted to fight the fire.
It’s not known what caused the crash.
In September 2020, a National Guard Chinook made an emergency landing at Rochester International Airport over a “possible engine fire.”
Photos of the helicopter as it came in for the emergency landing showed the orange glow of a fire on the helicopter’s belly.
This article was updated to add a statement from the Army.