New Presidential Chopper Would Still Scorch White House Lawn (1)

(Updates to include more detail from report in fourth bullet. An earlier version corrected the date the helicopter is supposed to be ready for service.)

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The new presidential helicopter would still scorch the White House lawn as the U.S. Navy and contractor Lockheed Martin haven’t figured out a way to land the aircraft without damage, according to the Government Accountability Office’s newly released report on major weapons systems.

  • “Heat from the auxiliary power unit and/or engine exhaust continue to damage the lawn under certain conditions,” GAO says in report
  • NOTE: Bloomberg News reported last year that in one of the test flights the Marine One helicopter, without the president on board, left scorch marks on the White House lawn
  • Program is studying solutions including aircraft design changes, lawn surface treatments and operational procedural changes to minimize landing zone risks, but that the Navy continues to consider it a “high-risk” problem, according to GAO
    • Watchdog warns that a design change to address this problem may require modifications to helicopters already in production
    • GAO says Navy program office reviewed its assessment and provided technical comments that were incorporated
  • GAO says the effectiveness of the helicopter’s government-developed mission system for simultaneous secure voice and data communications “remains an area of concern”
  • NOTE: The first in a $5b fleet of new Marine One helicopters, VH-92A is supposed to be ready to go into service by January 2021
    • Navy plans to buy as many as 23 of the new aircraft at a cost of about $214m each

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