NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Veterans and others are in for a treat this Memorial Day in Nacogdoches. A preview of what's to come flew in Thursday morning.
The newest and largest utility helicopter used by the U.S. Army will be on public display. On Thursday, crewmen scoped out a landing zone.
The Boeing CH-47F has a distinct sound.
It's the distinct sound of the Boeing Chinook CH-47F. This latest model of an American twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter is building memories for crewmen in the air.
While on the ground, it renews memories for Vietnam veterans, including Rickey Wittner, a former Chinook flight engineer.
"We flew the A models," Wittner said. "And this is the F model. A lot of difference."
Army Sgt. Anquan Bagley said the biggest difference is a fully integrated, digital cockpit management system. That takes five computer screens.
"The pilots can see all of their gauges that they need to see," Bagley said. "They get all their indications from the engines, and actually their flight instruments as well."
The price tag crept up to about $36 million. What hasn't changed is the CH-47 remains to be the world's most reliable and efficient transport helicopter, capable of handling loads up to 24,000 lbs.
"The Chinook is the 18-wheeler in the sky," Wittner said.
"Right now you are in the cabin area," Bagley said as he showed off the Chinook. "This is where we hold all the cargo that we're not actually sling loading outside the aircraft with the sling set. So as you can see right now we actually have the aircraft kinda configured in the cargo configuration."
Yet it's combat ready, which is something Wittner knows all about.
"I got shot down July 10, 1970. I was standing in the window," Wittner said. "First RPG hit the engine. Second one hit the metal. And the third one hit the post right beside the door."
Old and new war stories will be shared on Memorial Day when the Chinook returns to Nacogdoches for a Memorial Day tribute for a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, the late Oscar P. Austin.
"The public needs to come and support it because Congressional Medal of Honor is not an award lightly given out," said Mike Bishop with the U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam Veterans Association. "And this young man needs every bit of this honor."
The fastest helicopter in the U.S. will quickly make the return trip to Nacogdoches to make this Memorial Day a memorable one for all who attend.
You can see the Chinook Memorial Day when it lands behind Nacogdoches First Baptist Church at 411 North Street. Tours will follow a marker dedication to start sharply at 10 a.m. to honor Private First Class Oscar P. Austin.
For more information on the CH-47F Chinook, click here.