White House South Lawn Damaged by New Presidential Helicopter, Demoting It to Backup Duty

The new $5B Marine One helicopters are sidelined due to damaging the White House lawn, forcing the president to use older models until a solution is found, raising questions about the program's cost and effectiveness.

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White House South Lawn Damaged by New Presidential Helicopter, Demoting It to Backup Duty

White House South Lawn Damaged by New Presidential Helicopter, Demoting It to Backup Duty

The new $5 billion fleet of VH-92 Patriot helicopters, known as Marine One when carrying the president, has been relegated to backup duty after the helicopters' spinning rotors and engine exhaust scorched the grass on the White House South Lawn. The problem was first identified in 2018 during the Trump administration, and President Biden is currently using the older VH-3D Sea King helicopters until a solution is found.

Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the VH-92 helicopters, has delivered 20 of the new aircraft to the Marine Corps. The company believes it has found a fix for the lawn damage issue and plans to start testing soon. "We believe we have found a solution to the challenge and look forward to testing our proposed improvement," Lockheed said in a statement. Despite the setback, the VH-92 helicopters are already operational for certain presidential missions, landing on paved surfaces.

The White House Military Office is responsible for determining when the VH-92 can be used to fly the president, vice president, and other official parties. For now, the new helicopters are restricted to transporting White House officials or Secret Service personnel. The South Lawn is a key location for the president to travel by helicopter, allowing him to avoid Washington D.C.'s notorious traffic.

Why this matters: The delay in fully implementing the new Marine One helicopters raises questions about the cost and effectiveness of the $5 billion program. It also highlights the challenges of integrating advanced technology with the unique requirements of presidential travel and the White House grounds.

The Pentagon has stated that the lawn damage is primarily due to the VH-92's engine exhaust, auxiliary power unit exhaust, and discharge of aircraft fluids onto the grass. Lockheed expects to complete the 23rd and final VH-92 helicopter in the summer of 2024. The White House has not provided a timeline for when the new helicopters will be ready to fully replace the aging VH-3D Sea King fleet and carry the president from the iconic South Lawn setting.

Key Takeaways

  • New $5B VH-92 "Marine One" helicopters damage White House lawn, relegated to backup.
  • Lockheed believes it has found a fix, plans to start testing soon.
  • VH-92s already operational for some presidential missions, but restricted from South Lawn.
  • Delay in implementing new helicopters raises questions about cost and effectiveness.
  • Lawn damage due to engine exhaust, power unit, and aircraft fluids; final VH-92 by 2024.