New Marine One Helicopters Aren't Allowed to Carry the President Because They Could Scorch the Lawn

Marine One lands in North Mayo Heritage Center in Ireland.
FILE -- Aboard Marine One, U.S. President, Joe Biden lands in North Mayo Heritage Center along with three CH-47 Chinooks assigned to the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division during his visit to Ireland in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, County Mayo, Ireland, Friday, April 14, 2023. (William Thompson/U.S. Army)

Read the original article on Business Insider.

The new Marine One helicopters, part of a program that the United States spent $5 billion on, still can't carry President Joe Biden because there's still a risk they will scorch the White House lawn, according to a new report.

The rotors and engine exhaust from the Sikorsky-manufactured VH-92 Patriot will occasionally burn the grass when it lands, an issue that was initially identified in 2018, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

    Because of this unrelenting problem, the new VH-92 is only carrying White House officials or Secret Service personnel instead of the president himself and is restricted to landing on paved surfaces, the report said. Older VH-3D Sea King helicopters will continue to transport Biden from the iconic, traditional South Lawn takeoff spot.

    The executive-transport fleet consists of VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters, which are designated with the "Marine One" callsign when Biden is aboard. The U.S. military sought to replace these aging aircraft with the newer VH-92 systems under the $5 billion program and has already secured 20 of them from Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky's parent company.

    The VH-92's lawn-scorching problems were first discovered in 2018 during the Trump administration, kick-starting an effort to resolve the issue.

    The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, noted in a June 2020 report on the matter that the military had "yet to demonstrate that it can meet the requirement to land on the White House South Lawn without causing damage."

    "Heat from the auxiliary power unit and/or engine exhaust continue to damage the lawn under certain conditions," the GAO wrote at the time.

    "The program is studying solutions," the GAO said, noting that those included certain "aircraft design changes, lawn surface treatments, and operational procedural changes to minimize landing zone risks."

    In early 2021, the Department of Defense's operational testing and evaluations office determined that "the damage was found to be primarily due to engine exhaust, auxiliary power unit exhaust, and discharge of aircraft fluids onto the grass."

    However, in its 2023 annual report, which was released earlier this year, the Pentagon said the VH-92 is "operationally effective for administrative lift missions" after the helicopter's "voice communications" were improved, without specifically mentioning the lawn issue.

    A White House official told Business Insider that the respective offices involved in the program "are working diligently to ensure a smooth, safe, and timely transition" from the current fleet of helicopters to the VH-92.

    "This is an event-driven goal, not a time-driven one," the official said.

    A Sikorsky spokesperson told BI that the defense contractor is working " 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."

    Story Continues