Inside a Chinook
Aircraft

What's It Really Like To Fly In A Chinook Helicopter?

Forces News' Kirstie Chambers was sent flying high in an RAF Chinook as the helicopter made the journey from RAF Northolt to Salisbury.

Inside a Chinook

The Chinook is a Royal Air Force's support helicopter, equipped for a variety of environments and climates.

While its primarily designed for supply use and in casualty evacuations, it can also perform a search and rescue role.

Forces News' Kirstie Chambers gave her thoughts of what it is like on board the aircraft during a flight...

Despite a recent influx of lovely weather, the day turned out to be cold, wet and windy but that definitely did not dampen my mood.

It was the day of my first flight in a Boeing CH-47 Chinook.

As I waited at RAF Northolt, having just had my bags checked, I peered out the window for the aircraft's arrival.

You can definitely hear it before you see it.

The distant hum from the propeller blades vibrated towards us until the whole room was filled with the sound of the Chinook.

Kirstie Chambers Producer In A Chinook

We were given a safety briefing and shown how to put on the helmets and ear defenders - a trickier task than you may imagine.

Once everyone had their helmets on, they opened the doors and we headed towards to the Chinook.

Walking towards the aircraft was tough in itself, if you are quite small like me, you really have to put some weight behind your legs as you walk towards the helicopter to combat the draught.

With the blades still working away, moving in opposite directions but in unison, it creates a heavier wind than we are used to.

You find yourself literally bending your legs and lowering your head as you walk towards the aircraft's opening.

After coming across so much video footage of the Chinook in the past, it was a significant moment to finally walk on board.

Despite ear defenders and a noise-cancelling helmet, there was no way you could drown out the sound of the aircraft as it whirled around your helmet like music at full volume.

The view from on board the aircraft

On board, the seats are lined out into two benches on opposite sides facing each other, with rounded windows between the allocated seats.

I would say, I thought it looked bigger once on the inside, making me instantly think of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.

Even the sound of the aircraft made me think of it - the whirling sounds of the blades working together. It was as if the sound was being chucked around the aircraft - bouncing off its metal shell.

Before I knew it we were in the air. To be honest, I didn't feel the aircraft lift.

With my only experience of flying being on commercial flights, with a long build-up to take off, I did not notice we were flying.

I straight away looked down the back of the aircraft to see if they were leaving the back door open - and to my luck they did. 

It was extremely overcast so from the back end, all you could see was white clouds and a splash of blue where the sky was trying to break through.

Chinook at RAF Northolt BFBS 050419

As we travelled to Salisbury, I was trying to absorb every moment - looking out all of the windows I could see, making the most of the flight and documenting every moment.

Every turn was swift and pushed you along the way - almost like the turns of a roller coaster, much calmer but still unexpected.

We were in the air for around 40 minutes.

I watched the back as we landed - again I could not feel us hit the ground. It was odd to move straight down, rather than a slanted guide towards a runway.

The aircraft felt as if it had hands wrapped around it, placing it down, completely balanced as it touched down.

As we got up to leave, I threw my rucksack on my back and had the sudden urge to run off down the slope - just like I have seen in all videos about the RAF news when personnel arrive on the ground. But I resisted.

Only thing I would say - avoid standing too close to a Chinook when its blades are still moving in torrential rain. Massive puddles, thick with mud, are not exactly a great accompaniment to the Chinook's wind - in fact, they will lift and hit you as you walk.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip in a Chinook.

On our way back to RAF Northolt I even spotted a Weymouth landmark - the historic Osmington White Horse, a figure that I would pass on all of my holiday trips to the seafront with the family.

This time I was travelling in a Chinook over it - how times change.

The trip back to Greater London felt calmer, not quite as jolting.

As this was my first time in any military aircraft, I am glad that it was in a Chinook.

No flight will quite be the same again.