America's next presidential Marine One chopper took to the air for the first time last week, marking a step forward in the $1.24 billion program to finally replace the ancient fleet of helicopters that currently ferry the president.
The Sikorsky VH-92A is scheduled to start its duties in 2020, following a 250-hour flight test program.
The VH-92A will be the Marine Corps version of Sikorsky's S-92A helicopter, already in service with a million hours total flying time. This first VH-92A prototype will be joined later this year by a second one, before the four production helicopters are built for the Marine Corps.
The Marine version of the helicopter includes modifications such as armor against gunfire and anti-missile systems to protect against surface-to-air missile attacks.
“This first flight of the VH-92A configured test aircraft is an important milestone for the program,” said Spencer Elani, director of the VH-92A program at Sikorsky. “Having independently tested the aircraft’s components and subsystems, we are now moving forward to begin full aircraft system qualification via the flight test program.”
Surely presidents from 2020 onward will be pleased to have a modern chopper at their disposal rather than today's overdue-for-replacement model.