Yes, the picture above shows five of the nine AgustaWestland-made VH-71 helicopters shrinkwrapped and being shipped on a barge from Maryland to Canada. The VH-71s were delivered to the U.S. Navy years ago as part of the Marine One helicopter replacement program. If you’ll remember, that effort was scrapped shortly after President Obama took office due to massive cost growth associated with converting the helos into a 21st Century presidential ride.
The problem is, nine helos had already been delivered to the Naval Air Systems Command at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland. Four test aircraft and five production birds that were going to be sent to a Lockheed Martin facility in Owego, NY., where they would be converted into luxury helos for the president.
After the program was canceled, the brand new choppers sat on the ramp at Pax River until last year when they were sold to Canada for pennies on the dollar despite interest in the choppers from “other” U.S. government agencies. Now, they’re going to be used for parts to support Canada’s fleet of Cormorant rescue choppers. So sad.
A friend of DT’s snapped the photo above on the show floor at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in Maryland earlier this week.