Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. -- With the advent of the MV-22B Osprey, the CH-46E Sea Knight is being retired from service in the Marine Corps. As the transition takes place, training for maintenance of the 49-year veteran aircraft will cease. The last two Sea Knight flight line mechanics graduated from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training in a ceremony at the aviation memorial aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, Sept. 13. “It’s the end of an era,” said Lt. Col. Martin Starta, CNATT commanding officer.
The graduates, Pfc. Michael H. Powers, a Chesapeake, Va. native and Pfc. Jaleel R. Williams, a Boykins, Va. native, both reservists, are now going to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 based in Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
As flight line mechanics, they received training on how to perform maintenance on the Sea Knight, including how to remove engines and rotors, use the necessary tools and combat corrosion, said Staff Sgt. Robert J. Isder, CNATT CH-46E flight line mechanic chief instructor. Williams said he plans on working hard at his new squadron to keep the aircraft in the air. “With what Staff Sgt. Isder has taught me, I’m more motivated to carry on the tradition of the 46,” he said. Isder said that with the last two students leaving the schoolhouse, the CH-46 Maintenance Training Unit (MTU) will close.
The 17-year CH-46E expert said leadership at the CNATT aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola will send an official letter stating no other students will arrive.
After that letter comes, the school will close and its facilities will be used for other purposes. Several of the instructors, including Isder, will go to the remaining active medium helicopter squadrons. Others who have already completed the MV-22B Osprey transition course, are awaiting orders to see what kind of squadron they will go to. “We’ve had the MTU here for more than fifty years,” said Starta. “It started in 1962. It’s a sad day but it’s also a great day because we have the MV-22 in service now and we have new aircraft, such as the (F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) that are up-and-coming.” The CH-46E, commonly known as “Phrogs,” successfully endured a baptism of fire in the Vietnam War in 1965.
Since then, the aircraft has been used for cargo transport, troop insertions and casualty evacuations in multiple conflicts and humanitarian missions in varied places from Grenada and Lebanon to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the days of the CH-46E are numbered, the aircraft and their maintainers will not drop their packs until the last flight is done.