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The VH-92 Presidential Helicopter has been making near-regular flights around the Washington, D.C., area of late, most recently on Dec. 4 when it was spotted flying south along the Potomac River.
Still in test, the Sikorsky-built VH-92A flew its first public sortie on July 4, 2019, during President Trump’s Independence Day extravaganza on the National Mall. It was first spotted performing test landings on the White House lawn in 2018 and has been an occasional presence in the skies over D.C. since then.
But helicopter spotters, including Vertical, have seen the aircraft multiple times in the last two weeks, suggesting an uptick in shakedown flights between the city and the VH-92’s current base at Naval Air Station Patuxent River south of the city in Maryland. The helicopter is a highly-modified and militarized version of Sikorsky’s commercial S-92.
“The VH-92A aircraft are conducting both training and test flights throughout the Nation’s Capital region,” a spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) told Vertical in an email.
It is possible the flights are aimed at testing whether the helicopter’s engine exhaust, combined with its powerful downwash, continues to burn up the lush White House lawn. In prior trials landing at the executive mansion, the VH-92’s 2,520-shaft horespower (1,879-kW) General Electric CT7-8A turboshaft engines scorched the manicured ground to an unacceptable degree. A solution for this performance requirement was supposed to be in place by November, but NAVAIR did not specify what tests were recently performed.