Tuesday, August 8, 2017

US President's future Marine One takes to the skies for the first time

Artist rendering of the VH-92A (Lockheed Martin)

The US President's next official rotorcraft ride has made its maiden flight as a 250-hour flight test program for the Sikorsky VH-92A helicopter begins. According to Sikorsky parent company Lockheed Martin, the future Marine One took to the skies at Lockheed's Owego, New York facilities on July 28, followed by a second flight the same day at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut. The total sortie time of one hour included hover control checks, low speed flight, and making a pass of the airfield.

Operating under the official call sign of Marine One, the VH-92A will be used to ferry the US President, Vice President, and other officials. It's being developed under a US$1.24 billion US Navy Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract for the US Marine Corps' VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program awarded on May 7, 2014. Under the contract, Sikorsky will provide two test/trainer aircraft and four production aircraft with the option for an additional 17 helicopters.

The VH-92A is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92A commercial variant helicopter, which has flown over one million hours with over 200 customers in 10 countries. It replaces the current Marine One fleet made up of VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N WhiteHawks built in the 1960s and 1980s, which are now obsolete and long past their service lives.

The helicopters will be assembled at Sikorsky's S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania before being sent on to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut for modifications. These include integrated communications and mission systems, defensive countermeasures against missiles, hardening against electromagnetic pulses from nuclear explosions, a comfortable presidential interior, and in-flight toilets.

The current aircraft, designated Engineering Development Model 1 (EDM-1), will undergo flight tests over the next year, during which it will be joined by a second prototype, EDM-2. The first operational VH-92A will enter into service in 2020.

"This first flight of the VH-92A configured test aircraft is an important milestone for the program," says Spencer Elani, director 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."

(David Szondy - New Atlas)

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