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All Ed Blantz Wanted Was a Chance to Fly on the CH-47 — Now He’s a Record Holder.

CH-47 Chinook

Even when Ed Blantz maintained CH-47 Chinook helicopters on the ground, he wanted to spend his career in the air. There was just one problem.

“Aircraft electricians don’t fly,” he said. “But flight engineers do.”

Blantz went back to school. Today he’s sure it’s the best decision he ever made.

Love at first flight

Blantz said he “got the itch to fly” for a career after taking his first helicopter ride.

Then a CH-47 electrician with the U.S. Army National Guard, he trained and qualified as a Chinook mechanic and, in 1990, as a Chinook flight engineer. In the time since, he has flown throughout the world on Chinooks — first for the Guard and now for Boeing.

“As a flight engineer, you’re assigned to one aircraft, and it’s your baby,” said Blantz, a CH-47 flight engineer and instructor with Boeing Test & Evaluation. “It’s all about being part of a team to keep the aircraft operating safely and efficiently.”

He has tended to Chinooks for several decades, maintaining and crewing A, C and D models with the Guard. After joining Boeing in 1997, he helped develop the Block II F and G models, as well as numerous Chinook models used by allies around the globe.

Through his Chinook career he has accumulated more than 5,000 accident-free flight-hours, numerous military honors and one aircrew record.

“I believe it’s safe to say I’ve worked on more Chinook variants than any other flight engineer in the world,” Blantz said. “It has been a privilege to witness and be part of the development of the greatest aircraft in the world.”

Pilot preferred

The CH-47 wouldn’t be what it is today without Blantz, according to a longtime colleague, who emphasized how much Blantz cares about the CH-47 and the people who fly it.

“Ed is an oracle of knowledge,” said Benjamin Lewis, a Boeing test pilot based in the United Kingdom. “He’s extremely well respected by the aviator community. Operators listen to him, and as a result, he has been critical in shaping the evolution of the Chinook over many years.”

Lewis was still serving in the U.K. armed forces when he started flying with Blantz 12 years ago. For the past eight years they’ve flown experimental test flights together as Boeing teammates.

“Ed’s experience, knowledge and sense of calm provides a truly reassuring presence within the aircraft,” Lewis said. “If I could choose one flight engineer to fly with, Ed would be at the top of the list every time.”

Rescuing the rescuers

If there’s one thing Blantz has learned on CH-47 missions it’s this: “You name it, the Chinook can do it.”

Blantz was on board as Chinooks fought fires in Texas, delivered supplies to hurricane victims in Florida and helped workers build schools in remote parts of Central America. He flew multiple CH-47 combat missions in the Middle East, where the helicopter rescued wounded soldiers and “did everything we could have asked of it.”

One of Blantz’s most memorable experiences occurred not far from his home in Pennsylvania.

During a flood in January 1996, he flew for an entire night on a CH-47. The Chinook hovered over trees, homes and buildings, using its hoist and aft ramp to rescue people stranded by water. The Chinook even retrieved emergency responders. 

“Firefighters were on their way to an island for a rescue, but their boat got stuck in ice,” Blantz recalled. “We rescued them and then brought them with us to rescue others.”

That night Blantz, his crewmates and the Chinook saved 43 people.

The work is the perk

As much as Blantz loves flying on Chinooks, he thinks teaching might be even better. Today he draws on 44 years of aviation knowledge to prepare the aircrews of tomorrow.

In addition to supporting CH-47 developmental and production test flights, he trains future Chinook flight engineers. Teammates value the expertise he brings to mission tasks and crew coordination, and admire his teaching abilities.   

“Ed works well at including everyone,” said Boeing Test & Evaluation’s Jeffrey Bender, chief pilot for Boeing military programs and unpiloted systems. “He always goes the extra mile and ensures customers understand how to best use the aircraft and, most of all, that it is used safely.”  

While with Boeing, Blantz has traveled to Asia, Australia and Europe, spending weeks or months at a time assisting Chinook aircrews. When he sees Chinooks in action around the globe, he feels proud.

“It’s rewarding to see the crews I’ve trained doing great things in a great aircraft,” Blantz said. “I love what I do.” By Elaine Brabant

Manufacturing & Engineering Magazine | The Home of Manufacturing Industry News

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