Tuesday, 20 January 2009

VH-71 - a place called home

The following list are places and units associated with the VH-71 Kestrel

Yeovil, Somerset, England, UK

Home to the AgustaWestland helicopter factory where nine VH-71 helicopters were built. This factory built Test Vehicles TV-2 to TV-5 and Pilot Production PP-1 to PP-5.

Yeovil is a large town of approx 42,000 people in mainly rural county. Westlands having been building aircraft here on this site since 1915. During World War 1 they licence built almost 1,100 aircraft and sea planes. Famous types designed and built by Westlands include the World War 2 Westland Whirlwind a twin engined tank buster and the covert special ops Westland Lysander, often used to drop secret agents into Nazi occupied Europa. Westlands also built Spitfire and Seafire fighters under contract to Supermarine during WW2. The Luftwaffe bombed Yeovil and the factory several times. After the war Westlands became Britains premier helicopter manufacturer initially working on their own designs such as the Westland Westminster but soon licence building US designs such as the Westland Bell 47, the Whirlwind ( S-55 deriative ) the Wessex ( S-58 deriative ) and the Sea King ( H-3 ie related to the VH-3 ! ) and most recently with the Westlands AH-64 Apache. They have also built several designs in conjunction with the French firm Aerospatial ( now part of Eurocopter ) such as the Gazelle, Lynx and Puma.

The European Helicopters consortium EH-101 Merlin is built at Westlands from which the VH-71 is derived. Initially a second production line was also in place with Agusta in Italy, however following the merger of Westlands and Agusta in 2001 all "101" production was transferred soley to Yeovil.

LINK to AgustaWestland AW 101 / EH 101 pages

Owego, New York, USA

Home to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration - LMSI. The town has a population of approx 22,000 people and is in Tioga County about 150 miles North East of New York City.

Each VH-71 has come here to be fitted out with with critical mission systems, communications systems and luxury interiors.

The external photo link below shows a VH-71 undergoing vibration testing at Owego.


LINK to learn more about LMSI at Owego

Patuxent River, Maryland, USA

Home to the US Navy Naval Air Warfare Center ( NAWC ) a part of NAVAIR located along Chesapeake Bay by the mouth the of Patuxent River. The airfield was build during World War 2.

NAVAIR are ultimate project leaders for the VH-71. Patuxent River is home to many specialised US Navy testing and evaluation units. The VH-71 project team is known as PMA-274 and has the task of bringing this special new helicopter into US service.

HX-21 squadron badge

The actual test flying of the VH-71 will be carried out by the pilots and crew of squadron HX-21 - HX-21 fly many test, development and modified helicopters as part of the Rotary Wing aircraft Team ( RWAT )

LINK to learn more about NAVAIR

LINK to news item about PMA-274

LINK to learn more about HX-21

Quantico, Virginia, USA

Home to HMX-1 - HMX-1 is the USMC helicopter squadron that has the privilege and honour to operate the Presidential helicopter fleet. The USMC first established a base at Quantico back in 1917.

Currently flying the familiar VH-3D and VH-60N from the lawns of the White House the unit also operates several VH-46 and VH-53 helicopters to support this mission.

LINK to HMX-1 entry on wikipedia

Promo video from National Geographic TV about HMX-1 visiting New York City

Quantico is also home to the excellent National Museum of the Marine Corps which includes many historic aircraft and helicopter exhibits - if you are in the area make sure you visit this exhibition.

LINK to the National Museum of the Marine Corps - Quantico

Anacostia, Washington DC

Adjacent to Bolling AFB the VVIP helicopters of HMX-1 operate from the Naval Support Facility Anacostia whilst serving in the Washington DC area.

LINK to official USN website about NSF Anacostia

LINK to Wikipedia entry for NSF Anacostia

LINK to Global Security entry for Anacostia Naval Air Station

LINK to historical site about the airfields at Anacostia and Bolling - well worth a look

Thursday, 15 January 2009

VH-71 Kestrel - The curent Marine 1 helicopters

The current fleet of Marine 1 helicopters operated by HMX-1 for Presidential and VVIP flights comprises a mixed fleet of VH-3D Sea Kings and smaller VH-60N Whitehawks.

The VH-3D aircraft were delivered from approx 1974 replacing the older but similar VH-3A.

The VH-60N aircraft were delivered from approx 1988.

Today's VH-3D fleet comprises the following individual helicopters

Bureau Number ( Tail Number )
159358 - this example is a NVH-3D used by HX-21 at Patuxent River for testing upgrades

VH-3D - photo courtesy of US Navy NAVAIR

Today's VH-60N Whitehawk fleet comprises the following individual helicopters

Bureau Number ( Tail Number )

163267 - this aircraft was destroyed in a post maintenance test flight 19.5.1993 near Quantico, VA

VH-60N and VH-3D behind - photo courtesy of US Navy NAVAIR

Of the older retired VH-3A Sea King aircraft the following examples are preserved on public display

Bureau Number ( Tail Number )

150611 - Preserved at the Ronald Reagan Foundation & Library - Simi Valley, California

Photo LINK for 150611

150613 - Preserved with the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida

Photo LINK for 150613

150617 - Preserved at the Richard Nixon Library & Museum - Yorba Linda, California

Photo LINK for 150617