After engine fires, “over 90 percent” of all Chinooks are repaired

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A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off carrying an M119A3 Howitzer after Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division conducted an air assault sling load operation during battery-level gunnery certification in 2019 at Fort Drum, New York. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Paige Behringer)

WASHINGTON — The US Army’s Chinook fleet is almost completely repaired, months after the service was forced to ground its heavy-lift helicopters due to engine fires, according to the US Army Aviation Director.

“To date, over 90 percent of all Chinooks have been repaired,” Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the director of Army Aviation, told reporters during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference. For the remaining 10 percent, “we’re waiting for normal maintenance and then I’d say, you know, by the year we’re going to be good.”

In late August, the Army grounded its fleet of Chinooks when a faulty part called an O-ring led to fuel leaks and a “small number” of engine fires. At the time, a statement from Chinook engine maker Honeywell said the service had identified faulty O-rings installed during routine maintenance at an Army depot and was working to replace them on affected Chinooks.

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The Honeywell statement said that “none of the O-rings in question were of or were part of Honeywell production or Honeywell remanufactured engines.”

“In full coordination with the U.S. Army, Honeywell helped discover that O-rings that did not meet Honeywell’s design specifications had been installed on some T55 engines during routine and scheduled maintenance at an Army depot,” reads the the explanation.

In early September, the Army provided information that suggested a cataloging problem prompted mechanics at the depot to put the wrong O-ring on the birds, according to a Sept. 6 report from Inside Defense. The service said it fixed the cataloging problem.

During today’s roundtable with reporters, Maj. Gen. Tom O’Connor, commanding general of Air and Missile Command, said that when the problem arose, the Army had to conduct data analysis to determine the root cause of the problem and now the matter has been resolved. The two-star player also deflected blame from the depot.

“Most of the engine maintenance is done at the depot, but it’s not because the depot did anything wrong,” O’Connor said.

The event raised major concerns about preparedness at a time when the Chinook issues came just weeks after the Pentagon was forced to ground several planes over unrelated safety concerns. For the Chinook incident, Taylor said the service was able to “mitigate” the impact on other aircraft.

“Of course, operationally we had a direct influence on the grounding [happened] that we mitigated, you know, almost overnight with other airframes, [with] Black Hawks and other skills,” he said.

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