1/72 Columbia 234UT
Back in 2017, I was part of one of the greatest experiences of my life, helping to perform the second ever flight test of the Dream Chaser spacecraft Engineering Test Article at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) located at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During this testing, the ETA was lofted high above the Rogers Dry Lake to conduct an unpowered Approach and Landing Test, in much the same way the Space Shuttle did some 40 years earlier. To lift such a larger vehicle to an altitude that allowed the test vehicle to reach flight conditions similar to what Dream Chaser would experience in its final phase of flight returning form space, a heavy lift aircraft was needed. Enter, the Columbia Helicopters 234UT!
At first glance, you may assume this is just another CH-47 Chinook, but the 234UT has several modifications from the military variant most are familiar with. It is indeed based on the Army's beast, but the Boeing-Vertol Model 234 (the type certificate later sold to Columbia Helicopter) was created as a civilian version for use in a variety of transport and utility applications. Not only were unnecessary military features removed, but the window layout was significantly changed to a "passenger" arrangement you might find more familiar on an airliner. The "UT" version was stripped down even further to remove as much weight as possible and give the helicopter maximum lift capacity. Even the external fuel tank sponsons were removed and the tanks placed inside the fuselage to reduce weight. All of these features give the 234UT a unique appearance in the Chinook line of aircraft.
For this project, my objective is to reproduce this special helicopter in 1/72 scale. No kits exist to my knowledge, so I decided to go forward with a conversion. The closest kit in form to the 234UT that i could find was the Italeri MH-47E SOA Chinook (Kit No. 1218). Substantial modifications to the kit will be required to reporduce the aircraft I worked with and I will be getting good use out of my 3D printers. Let the fun begin!