Ground Breaking for Presidential Helicopter Facility

LEXINGTON PARK, MD - On Monday, May 9, Congressman Hoyer joined state, local and Navy officials to break ground for the new VXX Presidential Helicopter Program Support Facility at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Congressman Hoyer was instrumental in securing the initial $40 million in federal funds last year to begin construction of the facility to house the Marine Corps' Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program at Pax.

As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Congressman Hoyer led the effort in the Congress to ensure that the VXX Presidential Helicopter project was funded. Last year, Congressman Hoyer helped secure the authorization for the new state-of-the-art facility in the House version of the Defense bill and ensured that the funds were also included in the Military Construction Appropriations bill passed in the House of Representatives in July.

However, this program was in jeopardy during the Conference Committees, where differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills are worked out, because the program was not included in the Senate-passed Defense Authorization or Military Construction Appropriations bills. By coordinating the effort between the Navy, the Congress and others, and because he successfully secured funds in House-passed bills for this project, Congressman Hoyer was able to preserve $40 million to begin construction on the new VXX facility at Pax River in the final version of the Fiscal Year 2005 Military Construction Appropriations Bill.

Following are Congressman Hoyer's remarks from the Groundbreaking Ceremony as prepared for delivery.

"I am pleased to be here today to help officially launch the construction of a major new program here at Pax River. At the request of the White House, this program has been accelerated, not because the President wants something more comfortable to fly in - I'm confident that the Marine Corps takes great care of our President today with Marine One. But, it's simply that the ability of the current platform to carry new equipment is now saturated.

"Our principal challenge in aviation today is no longer how to make aircraft fly, although we strive for continual safety improvements and better efficiency. Rather, today, the challenge is how to integrate complex systems into a single envelope and make it all work together as a system. That challenge has been the motivating force behind what has evolved here at Pax River.

"Since the 1970s, Pax began to realize that we needed much more than a garage type operation that tested aircraft by a tinkering and tweaking method.

"What we have developed here with ACETEF (Air Combat Environment Test and Evaluation Facility) and our two anechoic chambers, is the most sophisticated ground testing capability in the world, that enables us to put aircraft and other systems through many different situations before we get to the point of validation - which is the actual flight testing on an open air range.

"Recently, we saw the roll-out of the Airbus A380 - what will be the newest and by far, largest passenger aircraft in the world. Chief Test Pilot Jacques Rosay described the first flight by saying it had been 'like handling a bicycle.'

"I'm sure it was as familiar to him as riding a bike because he likely has already experienced the same thing through virtual simulation and 'flown' hundreds of flight hours in a cockpit simulator, before ever taking off the other day for its maiden flight. We will do the same for this new helicopter.

"The government/industry team that will work together at this new facility, will have enough confidence in its safety and capability to turn it over to the marines who are responsible for short distance transportation of the President of the United States.

"That's why this program could not have been done anywhere else. That's why plenty of other DoD hangars sit empty that could have easily accommodated the 'garage' requirements of this program.

"None of them, however, could offer co-location with our facilities -ACETEF, the anechoic chambers, and our instrumented range. Most importantly, as Admiral Massenburg said, it is our people - the intellectual capital—that is the true discriminator for Pax.

"Our job is to be sure we continue the kind of investments in facilities and equipment to allow you to continue to be the best in the world at what you do.

"I am pleased to join you this afternoon and I look forward to the dedication of this new facility. Constructing this hangar is a critical component of meeting the timeframe we have to deliver a very important fleet of helicopters."

The Marine Helicopter Squadron is responsible for transporting the President and Vice President of the United States, foreign heads of state, and other White House officials. This aircraft travels worldwide and operates in varying environmental conditions. It must have the capabilities to ensure that the President can do his job no matter what the circumstances.

Currently only two types of helicopters are utilized by the Squadron to transport the President. These helicopters are not able to incorporate all of the latest technology and the need for improved capabilities has grown beyond the current fleet's structural and performance growth ability.

The Replacement Helicopter Program, currently referred to as VXX, will be a conventional helicopter designed to meet current threat requirements, as well as other yet unseen challenges, to provide the President of the United States with robust and efficient transportation.

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