It rarely happens that a military acquisition incurs major delays and cost overruns without some heads rolling. And so heads have rolled in the VH-71 program.
The next-generation U.S. presidential helicopter program, launched with a 2005 contract award, is one year behind schedule and has seen its total costs jump about 75 percent. The U.S. Navy-run program has just undergone a major restructuring that includes all-new dynamics for the aircraft. Part of the deal for Pentagon, White House, and congressional approval of the restructuring was the reassignment of the program heads for the Naval Air Systems Command and the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Systems Integration.
NavAir’s Douglas Isleib, was succeeded by Capt. Donald Gaddis, who previously headed the Navy’s highly successful F/A-18 Strike Fighter program. Lockheed’s PM, Michelle Evans, has moved on and Jeff Bantle, who ran that company’s now-successful Navy MH-60 Sierra and Romeo program, took the helm of the presidential program. Bantle, before joining Lockheed, served as a flight director for NASA’s space shuttle program. That role, in which he was the man on the ground in charge of space shuttle missions, prepared him for managing high-profile, high-risk projects in which schedule was critical and sudden, complex problems were common.
It wasn’t a bloodletting. Isleib has been reassigned to head Navy efforts to open a rotorcraft center of excellence at NAS Patuxent River, Md.