Military, Public Service

Election Brings ‘Hover Lover’ to White House

By Staff Writer | November 25, 2016
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Trump Helo

Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder

The results of Nov. 8’s voting may have boosted U.S. government support for the helicopter industry, regardless of whom President-elect Donald Trump picks to lead the Transportation Dept., FAA and NTSB.

After all, the new occupant of the Oval Office walks into Washington’s Executive Mansion a proven believer in the value of vertical lift.

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Every American president, shortly after taking office, has come to appreciate the helicopter since July 12, 1957, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was carried off the White House’s South Lawn to Camp David in Maryland in a U.S. Air Force Bell Helicopter H-13J as part of an evacuation drill.

The threat of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union sold subsequent presidents on the helicopter as an escape option, regardless of how they felt about “whirly birds” before taking office. (Though Lyndon B. Johnson may have favored them, since a Bell 47D helped him campaign throughout Texas in 1948 and win the Senate seat that he held until he became John F. Kennedy’s vice president in 1961.)

A Secret Service briefing on how he, his family and critical members of the national government would be plucked to safety probably served to reinforce each president’s appreciation of vertical lift. Certainly presidents who had led states – Ronald Reagan in California, Jimmy Carter in Georgia, Bill Clinton in Arkansas and George W. Bush in Texas – saw firsthand the value of helicopters in managing disasters. But not until they became heads of state did they understand that the fate of America might depend on the helicopter. (George H.W. Bush might be an exception; he may have realized that as director of the CIA in the mid-1970s.)

Of course, Trump won’t understand that firsthand until he takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017. But he already has a long track record as a consumer of helicopter services, having relied on at least three rotorcraft to support his far-flung business activities.

His first flight on Marine One may be familiar to President Trump. The U.S. Marine Corps’ Marine Helicopter Squadron One generally uses Sikorsky VH-3D Sea Kings for presidential transports. The business executive Trump preferred Sikorsky S-76s, so he may recognize the design pedigree as he flies low past the Washington Monument.

Trump’s 1989-1990-vintage Sikorsky S-76Bs are (or, until recently, were) operated by limited liability companies, according to the FAA aircraft registry.

N76DT, which seems to be the showcase bird, is registered to DJT Aerospace of Dover, Delaware. Trump used that aircraft on the campaign trail, including a well-publicized 2015 trip to the Iowa State Fair during which he offered helicopter rides to children.

N7TP is registered to DT Connect II of West Palm Beach, Florida. N76TE was registered to DT Connect, also of West Palm Beach, until June 15, 2015, according to the FAA. Today, the aircraft is listed by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority under the registration G-TRMP. It is listed as operated by Cardinal Helicopter Services and is being used, among other purposes, to support the Trump Turnbury golf resort in southwestern Scotland.

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