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A CH-46E Sea Knight with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 364 flies its last flight to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 29. The aircraft was inducted into the 309th Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Group, an aircraft gravesite appropriately known as the boneyard.

Photo by Cpl. Owen Kimbrel

Purple Foxes retire last “Phrog”

6 Nov 2014 | Cpl. Owen Kimbrel 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 364 made their final flight from Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 29.

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group storage site at Davis-Monthan Field, also known as the boneyard, was established in 1946 and houses the remnants of more than 4,400 different make, model and series of aircrafts. The facility houses everything from a Navy and Marine Corps T-1A Sea Star from the Korean War era to the more modern C-130.

The CH-46Es, nicknamed “Phrogs,” are being replaced by the more capable MV-22B Osprey. The Phrog has been a part of Marine Corps aviation since the Vietnam War. The flight was the last time the Sea Knight would fly in the Marine Corps fleet.

“For me it is an absolute honor to crew it down here and put it to rest,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Burleson, a crew chief with VMM-364.
The VMM-364 “Purple Foxes” have employed the CH-46E throughout much of the world, ranging from the Vietnam War to Operation Enduring Freedom.

From the pilots to the aircrew, the Marines were feeling sentimental traveling to put the aircraft to rest.

“Today is a sad but good turning point day, but it’s a great step for us as the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Kopacz, VMM-364 commanding officer. “I absolutely loved the aircraft; the 46 is an exceptionally capable aircraft. The tandem-rotor design really allowed and did so much. It supported us through Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom all the way back to Vietnam.”

The aircraft replacing the Phrog, the Osprey, can fly twice as fast, carry three times the weight, and travel four times the distance of the CH-46E.

“It was great to be a part of the 46 [community] but being in such a revolutionary aircraft such as the Osprey is absolutely amazing,” added Kopacz.

The Osprey’s capabilities strengthen the Marine Corps’ ability to support various missions throughout the world to include supporting partner nations during training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and contingent operations.

The Marines of VMM-364 stand ready for the Osprey to assume the responsibilities the CH-46E will leave behind.

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