My Claim to Fame, The only FE to Put a 26 foot Boston Whaler

inside a HH-53

During “Operation Honeybadger” and beyond training, circa, 1980, this question was asked by the Navy Seals.


Could we carry a 26 foot Boston Whaler inside the H-53 Helicopter?


We were tasked to test this out with a ground test on the ramp at the 20th SOS at Hurlburt Field.


Since I was an OLD, yet not too old member of the 21st SOS at NKP Thailand in 1972-73, we had received training and used the winches of the CH-53’s (Tactical Operations Configuration) in our unit occasionally. We requested that both of the winches and approach ramps for the ramp be installed on one of our HH-53’s (Rescue Operations Configuration) since the HH’s were designated as “SLICKS” I.E. the Heavy Haulers, and because our HH-53 aircraft did not have the Pave Low, Avionics Equipment Rack in the cabin, and we were also lighter than the Pave Low Aircraft.


They positioned the Boston Whaler on a pallet on the ramp behind the HH-53, we fired up the APP for electrical and hydraulic power, pulled out the winch cables and hooked them up to the pallet, turned over the rollers and tracks in the floor and ramp of the helicopter, adjusted the approach ramps on the ramp to allow the pallet to side up and onto the ramp roller tracks, and then onto the floor roller tracks of the aircraft.


I got out the winch control pendent and cable and started winching in the Boston Whaler, we had pre-measured the Boat and the inside of the helicopter and realized that it would be a TIGHT Fit, so we stripped everything off the inside of the helicopter for additional clearance and folded up the troop seats that were sometimes installed, to get them out of the way too.


While the pallet and boat were being winched inside, the winches could be controlled separately or together, so as it was sliding in, I could alternate from one winch to the other to jockey/guide the pallet and boat from side to side as the occasion arose to shift its path for clearance as it made its way inside the helicopter. IT FIT, with about 1-1/2 inches clearance on each side, I closed the Ramp and Door without any problem, in the front of the boat it was a tight squeeze to get into the cockpit, but it was OK.


Now to get it out! I got the trusty “SNATCH BLOCKS” out (Yes, that is the Proper Terminology), and hooked them to the ramp cables rings and placed the winch cables into the snatch blocks that reversed the winch cables pulling action and attached them to the front of the pallet and pulled the Boston Wailer out, just as I had pulled it in, this too was a slow process.


Question Answered: YES, we could carry a 26 foot Boston Whaler internally and fly away with it to any chosen location, however we would need a hard surface and lots of time to deploy the boat at any location. It was determined to be feasible, but not very practical for the Special Operations Missions.

John Hatch, MSgt Retired, 1982