By Cpl. Cuong Le, Defense Media Activity
The Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight conducted its first flight August 1962 and on August 1, 2015 the Sea Knight made its final flight to the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virginia.
The Sea Knight began its service in the Marine Corps during 1964, and by 1968 the Knight had flown around 180,000 missions, carried more than 500,000 troops and flew approximately 8,700 rescue missions with wounded Marines.
“When you first get on a CH-46 you know it is a well maintained aircraft and after learn about the systems, and how the aircraft works, it becomes almost like a second home to you,” said Lt. Col. John Sarno, the executive officer of Marine Helicopter Squadron One. “Just the design of the aircraft makes it very forgiving. Through the years, Marines have maintained and made upgrades that have kept it going. We could probably make any piece of equipment last forever.”
Throughout its lifetime, the Sea Knight has flown in missions during campaigns in Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Marine Corps is immensely proud to pay its respect to five decades worth of Marine Corps history, and for the Marines who flew these aircrafts,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of aviation of Headquarters Marine Corps. “When Marines were wounded in their darkest hours, this aircraft would bring them home safely.”
The CH-46’s main mission has been to provide combat support, however, the aircraft also flew resupply missions, medical evacuations and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel.
“We are an assault support platform we deliver the most lethal weapon in the United States a Marine and his rifle,” said Sarno. “Put a Marine on the ground, and the enemy is going to have a really hard time.”
Although the CH-46 is being replaced by the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, the history of the Sea Knight will last forever with the pilots who flew it.
“This aircraft is leaving behind history dating from Vietnam to Afghanistan,” said Sarno. “The CH-46 has saved a lot of lives, and that is the biggest thing, because of our vertical envelopment and the way we work as a team in the Marine Corps, this aircraft will always carry a piece of history with it.”