Next Presidential Helicopter Passes First Test Landing at White House

November 20, 2018 1:41 PM
A Sikorsky VH-92A lands at the White House during a test on September 22, 2018. The VH-92A will become the new presidential transport helicopter, replacing an aging fleet of VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters. Naval Air Systems Command photo.

The next Presidential helicopter, the VH-92A built by Sikorsky, successfully landed at the White House during its first test run September, Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News this week.

Before most of Washington D.C. awoke on Saturday, Sept. 22, the VH-92A swooped in over the National Mall and landed on the White House lawn for the first time.

As part of the Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program, Sikorsky was in 2014 awarded a $1.2 billion contract to build a fleet of six helicopters to start, but with options for the Navy to purchase up to 17 more helicopters. Lockheed Martin purchased Sikorsky after the contract award.

More than a decade ago, Lockheed Martin beat out then rival Sikorsky in a 2005 competition for the contract to build the next generation of Presidential helicopters. However, years of delays and cost overruns with the Lockheed VH-71 helicopter program – the original 2005 $6.5 billion cost quickly ballooned to $13 billion by December 2008 – spurred the Pentagon to scrap the program and start over with a new request for proposals, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

A Sikorsky VH-92A lands at the White House, with the Washington Monument in the background, during a September test. Naval Air Systems Command photo.

The second time around, Sikorsky won the competition by submitting the VH-92A, a variant of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter which is used by 11 other nations to transport their heads of state, according to Sikorsky. The fleet of VH-92As will replace the aging fleet of Sikorsky-built VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters currently used by the Marine Corps to transport the President.

The VH-92A that landed at the White House is the first helicopter under the contract to be delivered to NAVAIR. The initial operational capability is expected to occur in late 2020, and the full production line is on track to complete in 2023, according to NAVAIR.

Vertiflite Magazine first reported the VH-92A test in its November/December issue.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox