If the president is not flying with Air Force One, he is probably flying with HMX-1, the Marine Helicopter Squadron One. This prestigious squadron flies the iconic green and white-topped helicopters in and out of the White House lawn. Marines commonly transport the president in helicopters like the VH-3 Sea King or the VH-60 “White Hawk.” While these birds reliably carry the president, HMX-1 has one aircraft in which the Commander in Chief is still forbidden from flying: the V-22 Osprey.
The president is not allowed to fly in the V-22 because of the aircraft’s crash history. Frankly, the V-22 has a ways to go before it is trusted to safely carry the Commander in Chief. Gizmodo explained in 2013 why the military does not have full confidence in the Osprey yet:
During the Osprey’s initial flight testing and development phase, the aircraft earned the nickname, ‘the Widowmaker,’ given its habit of falling out of the sky. In 2000, a pair of Osprey crashed, killing the crew of one, and the crew along with 15 passengers in the other. The aircraft were finicky and notoriously difficult to handle, even with experienced test pilots at the controls.
As a helicopter-airplane hybrid, the Osprey is a unique aircraft. The tilting rotors allow for vertical takeoff and landing while also making the V-22 capable of horizontal flight like a conventional plane. Ironing out this technology was sure to encounter a few bumps in the road.
But after serving American soldiers for a few years in the Middle East, Marine Corps officials say that the V-22 is a safe and reliable aircraft, according to DefenseTech.org. Boeing, the V-22’s manufacturer, is also trying to help the aircraft’s reputation. On Feb. 10, the aerospace and defense company delivered two V-22 simulators to HMX-1 to help pilots train for their missions.
“With the simulators,” Boeing said in a statement, “aircrews can rehearse missions without having to fly their tiltrotor aircraft. That reduces fuel use and wear and tear on the V-22s.”
HMX-1 currently has 12 V-22s and uses them to carry the presidential support personnel and members of the media.