Photo Information

A CH-46E Sea Knight taxis through the streams of two fire engines on Marine Corps Air Facility Quantico July 16, 2014. It is customary among squadrons to douse an aircraft before it’s final flight with the squadron. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Terry Brady/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Terry Brady

Phrogs take flight, depart Quantico forever

17 Jul 2014 | Sgt. Melissa Karnath The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Four CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters of Marine Helicopter Squadron One took to the air for the final time from Marine Corps Air Facility Quantico July 16, 2014.

The dual-propeller aircraft were flown to Florida where they will be transferred to the State Department. 

“The 46 is one of those aircrafts that’s probably the most stable platform that you can find using tandem rotors,” said John Morgenstern, the field service engineer for HMX-1 for the last 50 years. “The tandem rotors allow the weight of the aircraft to be evenly distributed between each rotor.”

Marines affectionately named the aircraft the “Phrog” from its appearance resembling a frog.

The aircraft’s use spans from the Vietnam War through the Iraq War. The “Phrog” functions as a rotary wing work horse — moving troops, supplies and equipment, and conducting search and rescue missions. The “Phrog” was used to recover Army Private Jessica Lynch, a prisoner of war, from Iraq in 2003.

The “Phrog” has been a versatile and effective aircraft for the Marine Corps due to some unique characteristics.

“There is no tail rotor. So you can land on ice and not slide, Morgenstern said. “The 46 can also land one end on the side of a mountain and hover the opposite end. 

“You can’t do that with many airplanes.”

During the last decade the newer and more modern MV-22B Osprey has all but completely replaced the venerable “Phrog.” 

The Osprey is a dual-tilt rotor aircraft, which can take off, hover and land like a helicopter, but achieve high speed by flying like a fixed winged aircraft. It features a high fuel efficiency, a longer travel distance than the Sea Knight and has dual characteristics which allow it to perform a vast number of missions.

“We all knew the MV-22B was coming,” said Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Green, a CH-46 crew chief with the squadron. “A lot of us ‘Phrog’ guys had a hard time letting go. Many Marines lateral moved to work with M-22s or other aircraft communities.”

For approximately 50 years the squadron has been using the “Phrog” to provide direct support for its most esteemed mission — to provide direct support to the president of the United States. The squadron is also the primary Operational Test and Evaluation unit for Marine assault support helicopters and related equipment, which supports the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. 

When the last CH-46 from the squadron departed on its final flight at sunrise with Green and Morgenstern were aboard.

“Knowing it will be the last time I start up the aircraft, knowing it will be the last time I taxi out, the last time I can hang out one of these windows, it is one of those things you treasure,” Green said. “When that goes away, it’s gone, and it’s never similar to any other platform — it will never be the same experience as a Phrog.”