Columbia Helicopters has announced a new development program to redefine Chinook commercial operations worldwide. As the OEM of the Commercial Chinook, the Model 234, Columbia plans to create a new model of super heavy-lift aircraft, the 234 Special Purpose helicopter, by converting existing CH-47D Chinook aircraft.

This 234SP development program leverages the existing Model 234 design foundation, while retaining the legendary performance of the CH-47D. Coupled with the planned Chinook Integrated Sustainment Program (CISP), these programs are aimed at enhancing opportunity and support for commercial Chinook operators by providing a fully FAA-certified transport category rotorcraft and providing unparalleled affordability, readiness, and on-demand capabilities.

“Our introduction of the 234SP into the market marks a new chapter in Chinook commercial operations,” said Mike Tremlett, President and CEO of Columbia Helicopters. “We are thrilled to lead the way in unlocking unprecedented opportunities for operators with this groundbreaking aircraft, enabling them to optimize their fleets and achieve unparalleled performance and efficiency.”

The first customer of the 234SP is current CH-47D operator ROTAK Helicopter Services, based in Anchorage, Alaska.

Ely Woods, President of ROTAK, expressed enthusiasm for this program, stating, “We are excited to bring this new opportunity to the industry and offer a new option for clients in the domestic heavy-lift market. Our partnership with Columbia and continued support has allowed a unique opportunity to change the industry. We are proud to be the launch customer for this new endeavor.”

European customer Heliswiss International, a Swiss helicopter operator specializing in heavy-lift long-line precision work and disaster relief, will also be a customer for the 234SP.

 Severin Riedl, Chairman of Heliswiss’s parent company, Swiss Helicopter Group, writes, “For over 60 years, Heliswiss International has developed an expertise in the construction and assembly of complex structures worldwide with the help of 10 ton category aircraft. In the frame of its development strategy and the global development plan of the Swiss Helicopter Group, Heliswiss has assessed the European market and confirmed the need for a 20 tons category helicopter.” CEO of Heliswiss, Stéphane Delaye, adds, “With the signature of a Letter of Intent to purchase a Chinook, Heliswiss makes a further step in its project to operate the 234SP as a utility-purposed Super Heavy Helicopter, and to support the ambitious development plan of Power Grids in Europe with an unmatched lifting capacity of more than 10 tons. We are happy to have the support of Columbia Helicopters to operate a Chinook in early 2025, independent from the certification process of 234SP.”

With certification and market entry planned for 2025, the 234SP development program signifies a pivotal moment in the history of the Chinook. It offers operators an opportunity to optimize their fleets and achieve unparalleled performance and efficiency.