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Bravo November

The Chinook in the Falklands

On 26th May 1982, the sole surviving Chinook brought south by the Atlantic Conveyor reached shore. The Chinook was met by a small detachment of No.18 ground crew at Port San Carlos. The detachment commander was Squadron Leader Dick Langworthy

On strength were one Chinook helicopter, two four-man crews, nine technicians and ten men. All the spares, tools and servicing manuals had been lost aboard the Atlantic Conveyor. This lone Chinook was by far the largest helicopter available to the British forces in the Falklands, capable of carrying about 12 tons.

 

On 30th May, Bravo November was busily transporting ammunition to the guns in the forward positions in ten-ton loads, and returning Argentine prisoners (sixty at a time) from Goose Green to Port San Carlos. However, that evening the SAS discovered that the Argentine army had withdrawn most of its troops from Mount Kent. After dark, three Sea Kings from No.846 Squadron flew K Company of 42 Commando from San Carlos to Mount Kent while Bravo November carried twenty-two men and two 105mm guns in her fuselage with a third 105mm gun slung underneath. Flying close to the ground with the aid of night vision goggles, Langworthy took Bravo November from Port San Carlos to Mount Kent in a half-hour flight through occasional snow showers which reduced visibility to almost zero.

Upon reaching Mount Kent, which the crew had been led to believe was relatively flat, they found a sloping peat bog flanked by stone rivers on either side. Bravo November landed the under slung gun without any trouble. When they tried to land to unload the two guns carried in the fuselage the Chinook's back end sank into the peat so that the ramp could not be lowered.

Squadron Leader Langworthy raised the helicopter a few feet, allowing the ramp to be lowered and landed again for a second attempt. Just as the guns were about to be unloaded the SAS, covering the landing area, engaged a company of Argentine troops to the northeast. At this time, the lighting in the helicopters rear cabin fused, leaving the unloading operations to be carried out in darkness except for use of a few hand torches. Under these conditions, the man wheeled out the guns despite the noise of the engines and tracer fire flashing past outside.

With the guns unloaded, Langworthy lifted off and started back to San Carlos, avoiding the battle. As the Chinook left at low altitude, it ran into a thicker snow shower and Langworthy allowed the helicopter to descend for a few seconds and hit something solid. The Chinook had actually hit the surface of one of the creeks west of Mount Kent at about 100 mph.

The impact threw up spray which flooded the intakes of the two rear-mounted engines and they lost power, at the same time the hydraulic power assistance of the helicopters controls failed, making it even harder to control the helicopter. The co-pilot jettisoned his door, and Langworth shouted for him to assist Langworthy at the controls. They both heaved on the collective levers and increased the pitch of the rotor blades. This lifted the helicopter up again, clearing the water and the engines wound up. In the back of the helicopter, one of the two other crew members, Tom Jones, lost his helmet and had been about to jump from the helicopter believing it to be breaking up. The other crewman had beckoned to him to put on another helmet and by the time he was on the intercom learnt that the helicopter was climbing and passing 1,500 feet.

Unable to navigate, Langworthy returned to San Carlos at medium altitude but was unable to contact the port and instead approached with all the helicopters lights on and hoped that the missile defence would realize that no Argentine aircraft would dare to fly so high and fully lit up. Fortunately, the people on the ground at San Carlos were hearing the Chinook's calls, although the Chinook could not receive their transmissions. The crew stepped out of the Chinook and a careful inspection revealed little damage. The co-pilots door was lost, the fuselage was dented and the rear-loading ramp had suffered some damage

On 2nd June, two companies of paratroops were flown from Goose Green to Fitzroy to seize the settlement now that it had been confirmed that the Argentine troops had pulled out. Scout helicopters led the transport, to guide in the Chinook and it's cargo of 81 paratroops. The Chinook had been commandeered while it was airlifting Argentine prisoners from Goose Green. The Scouts left ten minutes before the Chinook and scouted the immediate area. Despite being overloaded and encumbered by poor visibility, the Scouts met the Chinook about five miles west of Fitzroy and led Bravo November into land. The paratroops were landed and BN returned to Goose Green to pick up a second load, this time of 75 paratroops which were landed near Fitzroy.

After this Bravo November was deployed along with the other helicopters in bringing supplies and ammunition forward to support the advance on Port Stanley. The thirty mile round trip was between the forward supply area at Teal Inlet and the guns and position around Mount Kent.

In the course of a few weeks, the Chinooks moved 1,530 troops, 600 tons of equipment and 650 POWS.*

Bravo November hauled its loads until it was reinforced when four more Chinooks arrived aboard the Contender Bezant on 10th June
* The Falklands War, Marshall Cavendish

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