New Fall Protection for the CH-47 Chinook
by Brigitte Rox, Public Affairs Specialist
Safety Specialist Jamie Villanueva demonstrates how to use the fall protection anchor. Photo by Richard Lucio (RELEASED).
Corpus Christi, TX (December 30, 2011) – For years the U.S. Army has performed in-theatre maintenance on deployed CH-47 Chinooks by sending maintenance personnel and flight crews to the very top of the bird, a whopping 18 feet above ground, to inspect and service the rotor blades. However, that work came with high-risk unsecure maneuvering that resulted in serious injuries and even fatalities from falls. In the field, there are rarely any aircraft platforms or overhead anchors to provide support. That means the crew is climbing.
Recognizing the problem, Ft Rucker, Ala. flight crews and maintenance personnel developed a safer way to get the job done. They designed an anchor connector that mounts on a Chinook rotor head, even with the rotor blades still in place, to provide workers an anchor point for attaching a full body harness.
The rugged working conditions have contributed to too many accidents involving personnel falling from CH-47s. The Ft. Rucker anchor connector dramatically increases the sense of stability and allows maintenance crewmembers to focus on the mission.
Col. Christopher Carlile, CCAD Commander knows firsthand what a fall is like and can attest to the safety of the anchor, “After personally experiencing a fall from a CH-47, I know this fall protection connector will save a life.”
A crew of CCAD employees working at Ft. Rucker realized this was a best safety practice when they saw it being used there. CCAD, as an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Volunteer Protection Program (VPP) Star Site, continuously seeks safer methods to get the job done.
The CCAD crew noticed the anchor couldn’t be used with the rotor blades removed so they assembled a cross-discipline team of tool engineers, craftsmen and safety professionals to study the limitation. What resulted was a redesigned, deployable anchor system with the versatility of functioning with or without blades attached on the CH-47 rotor head.
“This tool will increase the safety of personnel,” said David R. Askew, CCAD’s Safety Manager. “It will reduce their risk when performing maintenance on top of the CH-47.”
The anchor connector is a double-ended tubular construction with a central flange section for attaching the limiter of the body harness rig. The tube and flange material is aluminum 6061-T6, known both for strength and lightness, making the anchor relatively easy to handle. Outer diameters of the body are precision-milled for inserting into the pitch housing of the rotor head with or without the blade pin installed. The central flange where the limiter connects also functions as an integrated carry handle. Polytetra-fluoroethylene (PTFE/Teflon®) rings are seated at either side of the flange to prevent metal-to-metal impact and abrasion.
The anchor connector is designed for use by one person as a part of a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) and must only be used in the manner indicated in the instruction manual provided with CCAD’s CH-47 Rotary Wing Head Fall Arrest Anchorage Connector Kit. The rated working load of the anchor system is 400 lbs. The complete kit includes one CH-47 Anchor Connector, one fall arrest limiter, one body harness, one carrying case, and an instruction manual.
The Fall Arrest Anchorage Connector is a fully deployable tool with lifesaving potential. The CCAD team of professionals has taken a great idea and magnified its value. The goal of Corpus Christi Army Depot now is to include the Fall Arrest Anchorage Connector as standard gear for CH-47 maintenance crews. When faced with the situation of climbing onto CH-47s, crews can get the job done with a sense of safety and security.