Military

60 Years Ago: First US Presidential Helicopter Takes Off

By S.L. Fuller | July 12, 2017

Major Barrett departs the White House with President Eisenhower on July 12, 1957 for Camp David. White House Photo.

Major Barrett departs the White House with President Eisenhower on July 12, 1957 for Camp David. White House Photo.

On this day 60 years ago, the first U.S. president took the sky, en route to Camp David, according to Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum. The institute’s article, written by Roger Connor, said that Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in a Bell Helicopter Ranger July 12, 1957.

“Though helicopters had been in operational use by the American military since 1944, concerns over their safety caused the Secret Service to bar their use for the nation’s chief executive except in case of emergency,” Connor wrote. “However, by 1956, the nuclear capability of the Soviet Union had reached the point where any evacuation of the president by roads could not be guaranteed and the head of President Eisenhower’s flight section, Air Force Col. William Draper, began shopping for helicopters.”

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Eisenhower’s next flight, he continued, came the following September. Instead of the Bell UH-13J, he rode in a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky HUS-1. According to Connor, Eisenhower preferred the Sikorsky. To not show favoritism between the Air Force, who did not operate the HUS-1, and the Marine Corps, Eisenhower alternated flights between the two services’ special flight detachments.

Six decades later, the U.S. presidential helicopter is due for a replacement. Sikorsky’s VH-92, which is scheduled to take its maiden flight within the next few months, should be fully operational come 2020.

Read the full Smithsonian Institute article here.

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