Purdue University Graduate School
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Chinook Helicopter External Load Accident Analysis

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posted on 2024-04-08, 22:26 authored by David Lee Magness IIDavid Lee Magness II

I conducted an in-depth analysis of the frequency and severity of external load accidents involving Chinook helicopters over a period of 30 years. The literature review encompassed General Aviation (GA) and ground-based safety organizations, while the data analysis predominantly relied on secondary data from the Army Combat Readiness Center (ACRC). In conducting this study, I aimed to identify key trends, causes, and effects of these accidents, particularly emphasizing material failures, human errors, and the substantial impact of rotor downwash as horizontal wind velocities in proximity to the ground. The study's goal was to improve safety and operational efficiency in Chinook external load operations by identifying frequency and severity of accidents over a 30-year period. The hope was that this would provide valuable insights for improvements in risk mitigation techniques.

By using an exploratory secondary data analysis of both publicly available U.S. Army accidents and accident data provided by the U.S. ACRC, I found that Chinook rotor downwash, which manifests as horizontal wind velocity when in close proximity to the ground, is the most significant and underreported factor. Based on the findings of this research, I recommend improved classification and documentation of such accidents. The findings highlighted the urgency of updating training and operational procedures to effectively address the unique challenges posed by rotor downwash and high gross weights in proximity to the ground, typical of Chinook external load Pickup and Landing Zone (PZ/LZ) operations. Implementing these recommendations is expected to enhance safety measures in both training and practical operations, ultimately reducing future accidents and improving safety standards in the aviation industry.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Technology


  • Technology Leadership and Innovation

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Linda L Naimi

Additional Committee Member 2

Mary E. Johnson

Additional Committee Member 3

John M. Davis

Additional Committee Member 4

Xiumin Diao