U.S. Marine Corps VH-71 program officials have conducted the first test landings of the EH101-based presidential aircraft at the White House, but don’t expect to proof any time soon.
The variant of the AgustaWestland aircraft, which Lockheed Martin Systems Integration is developing as prime contractor to the U.S. Navy, touched down at the Executive Mansion Jan. 13. The purpose was to better understand the effects of having the new helicopter operate at the White House. Presidents for more than 40 years have typically flown to and from the South Lawn on a Sikorsky/U.S. Marine Corps VH-3.
The milestone illustrated the VH-71’s progress toward the eventual goal of carrying a U.S. president — when it would actually have the call sign Marine One — and the security that surrounds that mission. Program officials barely acknowledged that the event had occurred, and neither the program nor the White House entertained requests to provide a photograph of the event.
The Marines want the VH-71 available for service by October 2009.