Lawn Scorches Delay Use of New $5 Billion Marine One Helicopters

 April 26, 2024

A $5 billion upgrade to the presidential transport fleet has hit an unexpected snag.

The new VH-92 helicopters, designed to transport the U.S. President, are scorching the White House lawn upon landing, hindering their use.

According to Business Insider, the VH-92 helicopters were introduced to replace the aging VH-3D Sea King helicopters. These modern crafts, however, have exhibited significant problems with heat damage to the grass of the iconic South Lawn—a critical aesthetic and functional part of the White House landscape.

Challenges With the VH-92's Performance

The auxiliary power unit and engine exhaust of the VH-92 helicopters are the primary culprits behind the lawn scorching. This flaw was first identified in 2018 during the Trump administration but persists today as a challenge.

Due to the ongoing issue, the VH-92s have been restricted to transporting White House officials and Secret Service personnel. Currently, these flights avoid the South Lawn, instead utilizing paved surfaces for landing and takeoff.

Without the proper solution, the new helicopters have not been cleared to transport President Joe Biden for daily operations; the older VH-3D Sea King continues to serve in that capacity.

This situation delineates a significant setback for a project that includes acquiring 20 VH-92 units produced by Sikorsky, a part of Lockheed Martin, under a $5 billion contract.

Exploring Solutions to Mitigate Risk

The issue regarding the helicopters' impact on the lawn was thoroughly documented in a 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO highlighted the absence of a proven capability for the VH-92 helicopters to land on the South Lawn without causing damage.

Here is a notable mention from the GAO report concerning the ongoing efforts to address this problem:

Heat from the auxiliary power unit and/or engine exhaust continue to damage the lawn under certain conditions. The program is studying solutions, including changes in aircraft design, lawn surface treatments, and alterations in operational procedures, aimed at minimizing this risk.

Despite these troublesome issues, the Pentagon has deemed the VH-92s operationally effective for administrative lift missions, as stated in their 2023 annual report. This status was awarded following specific upgrades to the helicopters’ voice communication systems.

Finding a Lasting Resolution

A detailed statement by Sikorsky addresses the collaborative efforts underway to resolve the landing issue: "in close collaboration with our Naval Air Systems Command customer and have an agreed upon landing zone solution with testing planned to validate and ensure the aircraft meets that specific operational requirement."

Officials remain hopeful but cautious. A White House official stated, "This is an event-driven goal, not a time-driven one," indicating that the transition to using VH-92 helicopters for the President’s transport is contingent on resolving the lawn damage issue effectively.

To sum up, while the VH-92 helicopters are equipped to handle certain administrative tasks effectively, their use for presidential transport remains on hold. Efforts continue as engineers and administration officials work tirelessly to protect the symbolic and functional integrity of the White House lawn.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

Top Articles



Receive information on new articles posted, important topics and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. 
Unsubscribe at any time.

Recent Articles

Recent Analysis

Copyright © 2024 -
A Project of Connell Media.