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News | Oct. 5, 2018

100 Years of Warfighter Support: Remembering Susquehanna’s helicopter repair mission

DLA Distribution Public Affairs

After its humble beginning as a supply and storage depot in 1918, the Defense Distribution Center, Susquehanna installation inherited a new mission following the end of both World Wars and conflict in Korea.

On October 26, 1955, the Assistant Secretary of Defense approved the transfer of responsibilities for supply and maintenance support of Army aircraft from the Air Force to Department of the Army, and, in early 1956, the Army announced that the support function for Army aircraft- primarily helicopters- was planned for New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

In 1957, the installation, then known as the New Cumberland General Depot, officially began expansion of its operational facilities with the addition of an air unit of the Army Ground Forces. 

The unit, which included both servicemen and mechanics, shared use of the adjoining Harrisburg State Airport while hangars were constructed on the installation.

On June 19, 1958, the installation broke ground on a permanent hangar.  At its completion, the hangar was 56 feet high with an inside area of 35,600 square feet, with 15,600 square feet allocated for repair-maintenance shops.

In June 1959, the installation executed its first air shipment of an H-34 helicopter.  It was sent to Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, to support the Army in an arctic test operation. 

As it was the first time an operation of this kind had been undertaken, the installation had to design a special skid-crate to permit movement of the helicopter via a C-124 cargo plane.

Throughout the 1960’s, the installation primarily focused on the overhaul and repair of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter—  particularly the rotor blades— in support of the war in Vietnam.

As the 1970’s approached, the installation was still heavily involved in Chinook maintenance, and, in 1970, added a Rotor Blade Inspection and Minor Repair Program to process all blades within the Army system.  This project included a $2.2 million rotor blade overhaul facility and whirl tower.

The installation continued to overhaul, repair, and modify aircraft and aircraft components through 1983, when the Army transferred the mission to Corpus Christi, Texas. DLA Distribution Corpus Christi, Texas is co-located with the Army repair mission and serves as the primary wholesale distribution point for major components to support helicopter repair missions for Department of Defense and Foreign Military Sales customers worldwide. DDCT also loads and unloads helicopters and other priority cargo from C-17, C-5A, C-141, and C-130 aircraft operated by the Air Mobility Command.