Marine-1 is a VH-3D. The VH-3D is a twin engine, all-weather helicopter flown by Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) and supports the executive transport mission for the President of the United States. The first version of this workhorse helicopter was flown more than 35 years ago and was derived from the Sikorsky Aircraft S-61 series. Originally developed as an antisubmarine sensor carrier for the U.S. Navy, The Sea King has been replaced in that role by the SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter as the anti-submarine warfare helicopter.
As the most visible helicopter in the Atlantic Fleet, the VH-3A's have provided flawless executive transport services to the Navy, civilian, foreign, and other military dignitaries. The standard 16 passenger VH-3A helicopters have the cabin divided into three compartments. The forward entrance compartment contains an airstair door and accommodations for one passenger and the aircrewman. The passenger compartment accommodates 15 passengers. The forward section of the passenger compartment is equipped with two swivel seats and one four-place seat. The aft section is equipped with an airstair door, an attendant's seat, one three-place seat, and one five-place seat. Raytheon Corporation received the first UH-3H to be modified for the executive transport configuration upgrade during 1998. Three others were upgraded over the next few years, replacing the aging VH-3A aircraft.
The VH-3D has been in use for approximately 25 years and is the helicopter transport for the President of the United States, Vice President, and other visiting heads of state. It has seating provisions for 16 passengers and the aircrew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, and crewchief. Designed as an executive transport, the aircraft systems, interior furnishings, and equipment have been optimized for executive transport missions. The VH-3D receives extensive care and maintenance exceeding normal standards to keep the aircraft in superior condition. The VH-3D incorporates a folding pylon for loading and storage onto an Air Force C-5A/B and C-17 transport for overseas assignments.
The VH-3D is in Phase III, Production, Deployment, and Operational Support phase of its life cycle. Although there is no production line currently for the VH-3D, the helicopter is expected to remain in service until the year 2012 based on current utilization data. Current training for Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) pilots, and maintenance personnel is provided by a contractor at the squadron. No specific formal military aircrew or maintenance training exists for the VH-3D.
The VH-3D is a single main rotor, twin turbine engine helicopter. The crew consists of a pilot, copilot, and crewchief. Aircraft systems, furnishings, and equipment optimized for executive transport mission. A heater/air-conditioning system is provided to maintain a constant cabin temperature at all times. The VH-3D incorporates a folding pylon and non-folding rotary wing head. Distinguishing features include a boat hull shaped fuselage and outrigger sponsons into which the main landing gear retracts. Rotors consist of a five-blade rotary wing head and a five blade rotary rudder.
The VH-3D model aircraft which forms the backbone for normal Presidential lifts fits the definition of an "aging" aircraft (i.e. an aircraft for which no production line currently exists). However, recurring in-depth evaluations of the condition and maintenance procedures on the VH-3D fleet in current usage has resulted in the establishment of a service life of 14,000 flight hours based on Service Life Assessment/Extension Programs (SLAP/SLEP) carried out on the VH-3D air frames. Using current utilization data, these aircraft will be able to remain in service until approximately 2014.
On 14 October 1990 a VH-3D helicopter crashed in the vicinity of Chicago as the result of a plastic snow fence which had been positioned for crowd control being blown free of its supports and wrapping around the tail rotor during landing transition. The tail pylon broke off and the aircraft rolled onto its side. The mishap was caused by the squadron's White House Liaison Officer (WHLO) having failed to insist that the fence be removed after having recognized the possible hazard to aircraft posed by it. Three crew members and one passenger received minor injuries, and two passengers were uninjured. No post-mishap fire occurred, and the aircraft was removed and ultimately refurbished. Because of the nature of the mishap (aircraft rolled onto its left side), the normal cabin egress was precluded, and the metal damage to cabin emergency escape hatches necessitated egress through the pilot's escape window for all.
Naval Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron's (NRWATS) Executive Transport Test Team is responsible for conducting developmental flight test in support of Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) requirements. HMX-1 functions as the Marine Corps' operational test and evaluation unit and also provides Presidential/VIP transportation. Most Executive Transport flight test involves developmental software flight test in the NRWATS NVH-3D helicopter. This specially configured H-3 is capable of supporting software flight test in support of most of the systems installed on HMX-1 aircraft.
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