Josef Campion joins the RAF Chinook Force to see the action on its home turf and its training areas.

I was casually scrolling down Instagram and caught COAP’s Instagram Photos so I visited the website and I was baffled by the opportunities available. After two weeks of signing up as a member and a follower of this incredible group’s facebook page I spotted this three-day assignment and jumped straight on it.This was my first and definitely not my last assignment with COAP.

After a five hour train journey to Farnborough, Hants, and 30min walk, I stepped into Trenchard House located at the FAST Museum. It was in this historic room that RAE Historian Peter Cooper gave a three-hour COAP Workshop where knowledge of aircraft and history of the RAF and RAE had no limit and where myself and 17 other COAP members were briefed on the next two upcoming days on assignment No5B. I couldn’t sleep due to the excitement. The assignment included one day at RAF Odiham hosted by No27 Squadron to witness how the RAF Chinook Force operates. The day after that was to be spent at the training areas on Salisbury Plain where we witnessed incredible sights of the Chinook performing many different training scenarios.

On Monday the 10 April we all arrived at the home of one of the most awesome and reliable aircraft ever built. We met our incredible hosts who could not of been any way more welcoming. They just made the day 10 times better and used all of their capability to create an epic day.

At 09.30hrs, we were briefed on the capability of the Chinook in squadron’s briefing room. After the capability brief we set off to the ramp and got nice and close up to the beautiful machine. Despite the light not being the best for photos everyone was still making the most of the incredible opportunity.

After a few shots of the aircraft we headed into the Sergeant’s Mess to have some lunch. Then we joined the chinook crewman in a mission brief to see what was on the way for us aviation enthusiasts.  

We then got on the bus and headed to the location where the Chinook was going to perform multiple underslung load passes and other movements.  Due to No27 Squadron’s Chinook having to deploy to another sortie we had the privilege to see No28 Squadron machine in action, so thank you very much to that unit too! This was the first time I felt that powerful downwash and incredible noise of the Chinook. 

The last part of a surreal day was to get some more shots of the Chinook in better light on the ramp, and I was so pleased to see one power up and taxi off only within metres of us all.

The next day, we all headed to Salisbury Plain. Throughout the day we visited four locations, first two locations were confined landing areas then the third location was a bit more off the beaten track, with the Chinook undertaking rear-wheel landings. The fourth location was troop movements.

At the first location, after waiting a few moments the awesome piece of kit arrived. Blowing every one away, including my new lense! Our host from the day before was the pilot of the Chinook, which topped of the day and was unbelievable to see. Location Two was another confined landing area where the pilot showed how awesome the RAF Chinook is, and its ability to basically do anything! Location three was a tough uphill walk but soon as I heard that windslap from those powerful blades and it was all worth it. The Chinook performed rear-wheel landings on the steep and proved to us all the agility of such an amazing aircraft.

The Final Location of assignment No5B was a sortie of troop insertion and extraction. With British armed troops and smoke grenades included I was very intrigued with this location. A long walk down to the field but once again well worth it as it was something I never imagined I would see. 

It was just truly incredible and something I will never forget. I didn’t just have such an amazing time and snapped some beautiful aircraft, I met amazing people who I am still in contact with. Not only am I privileged that COAP organised this fantastic trip but I am also massively thankful to the RAF Chinook Force who made a dream come true for many people. Our hosts and all the members of RAF Odiham could not have been any better and are a great representative of our Royal Air Force.