Lockheed Martin has moved one step closer to delivering the VH-71 for service as the next U.S. presidential and government VIP helicopter. On September 23, an operational pilot-production example of the aircraft, dubbed PP-1, successfully completed its first flight in Yeovil, England.
PP-1 is based on EH Industries’ EH101, which later became the AgustaWestland US101, and later re-branded as the AW101. VH-71 is the U.S. military designation.
The contract calls for Lockheed Martin Integration Systems in Owego, N.Y. to serve as primary contractor and systems integrator for the VH-71 program, while Italian helicopter builder AgustaWestland performs the role of basic airframe manufacturer.
While its size made it an attractive replacement for the Sikorsky VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns currently in use as U.S. presidential and VIP transports, the redundancy of the VH-71’s three-engine design made it especially attractive for service as Marine One, the president’s personal helicopter.
PP-1 has reportedly been moved to a super-secure hangar at Patuxent River Naval Air Station (NHK) in southern Maryland for further testing and outfitting. Four additional models of the aircraft will follow in early 2009.