MH-47E Chinook recovery
In spring 2002 a civilian Mi-26 was leased to recover two U.S. Army MH-47E Chinook helicopters from a mountain in Afghanistan. The Chinooks were being operated by 10th Mountain Division and had been employed in Operation Anaconda, an effort in early March to drive al Qaeda and Taliban fighters out of the Shahi-Kot Valley and surrounding mountains. The Chinooks ended up stranded on the slopes above Sirkhankel at an altitude of 8,500 and 10,300 feet. The Chinook stranded at 10,300 feet was deemed too badly damaged to recover, but the other one at 8,500 feet was repairable. With all fuel, rotors and non-essential equipment removed the Chinook was estimated to weigh 26,500 pounds, too much for the Army's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook, which could only lift 20,000 at 8,500 feet. An Mi-26 was located through Skylink Aviation in Toronto, which had connections with a Russian company called Sportsflite that operated three civilian versions of the Mi-26 called Heavycopters. One of the aircraft was in Tajikistan doing construction and firefighting work. The aircraft was leased for the recovery of the Chinook for $300,000. The Chinook was snatched with a hook and flown to Kabul, then later to Bagram Air Force Base in Parvan, Afganistan for shipment to Fort Campbell in Kentucky for repairs.
Six months later a second Army CH-47 that had made a hard landing 100 miles north of Bagram at an altitude of 4,000 feet was recovered by another Heavycopter operated by Sportsflite at a cost of $350,000.