As Lt. Col. Martin t’ Jong, commander of the 302nd Dutch Squadron., 166th Aviation Brigade, First Army – Division West, streamed live to the commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s Defense Helicopter Command, the Fort Hood Fire Department presented a water salute to the CH-47 Chinook landing at Robert Gray Army Airfield. Two aviators with the Royal Netherlands’ 302nd Dutch Sqdn. reached significant milestones that day, as they surpassed a combined 9,000 flight hours on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
Dutch aviator Maj. Jaap Lokker made history with 5,000 accident-free flight hours on the Chinook. During the same flight, retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Ryan, a contractor with the squadron, hit his 4,000 hour mark on the Chinook. With multiple deployments under their belts, reach between 2,000 to 3,500 flight hours. He said for aviators to achieve 4,000 and 5,000 hours is a significant accomplishment.
Lokker joined the Royal Netherlands Air Force as an aviator in 1980. After flying 3,997.5 hours in the Alouette, a French light utility helicopter, he became the first Dutch aviator to go through flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, to be trained on the CH-47 Chinook. Lokker said hitting the 5,000-hour milestone was special because both he and Ryan reached milestones together, and together had 9,000 hours of Chinook experience during that flight.
Ryan, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2018, thought he would never fly the Chinook again, until he began working as a contractor with the 302nd Squadron two years ago. The 20-year veteran serves as an instructor pilot, standardization pilot and instrument examiner for the squadron. “When I retired I never thought I would fly Chinooks again, but it feels great,” Ryan said. “I enjoy this, I love it. It’s a great opportunity working with the Dutch out here and continue to keep flying.”