Lockheed Martin announced today that the new VH-71 Presidential Helicopter test aircraft has made its maiden voyage. The new “Marine One” helicopter is said to be the worlds most technologically advanced helicopter intended to transport the President, Vice- President and heads of stat in an oval office in the sky environment.
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This particular helicopter designated Test Vehicle #2 was built under contract to the U.S. Navy and assembled at an AugustaWestland facility and marks the first aircraft to be specifically built for the VH-71 Presidential Helicopters Program.
The test flight lasted 40 minutes and test pilots performed general aircraft handling checks, tested flight characteristics at speeds of up to 135 knots (about 155 mph), and tested onboard avionics. The helicopter is expected to enter into service in late 2009.
"Seeing our first VH-71 test vehicle flying is an important stepping stone and an exciting event for the entire program, the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by the Government and Industry team," said Doug Isleib, U.S. Navy program manager, Presidential Helicopters Program. "We all should be proud of this accomplishment as we look forward to the day when these helicopters are landing on the South Lawn of the White House."
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A fleet of VH-71 helicopters is being built in two increments; the initial aircraft will compose increment 1. Later increment 2 aircraft will see a significant increase in performance while adding technical enhancements aimed at allowing command and control capability in flight.