AgustaWestland has flown the fourth test aircraft for the VH-71 US presidential helicopter, as prime contractor Lockheed Martin continues to work with the US Navy on restructuring of the overbudget programme.
Aircraft TV-3 is one of four test vehicles and five production helicopters planned to be assembled in the UK by AgustaWestland under Increment 1 of the VH-71 programme.
Although the future of the programme has still to be decided, Lockheed says it remains the plan to assemble the 23 Increment 2 aircraft in the USA at Bell Helicopter in Amarillo, Texas. This corrects an erroneous report on flightglobal.
Flown at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil plant on 27 February, aircraft TV-3 will be the first VH-71 to be outfitted with mission equipment, to be installed at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration’s Owego, New York site from later this month.
TV-1, -2 and -5 are already in flight testing in the USA. Including a company-owned helicopter, a total of five test aircraft will eventually be deployed to the US Navy's NAS Patuxent River test centre in Maryland to support development of the VH-71.
Fuel system testing has been completed, and efforts arenow focused on satellite communications and FM radio testing. This will be followed by tail rotor testing and flight load surveys. A systems integration laboratory has opened at Pax River to support the programme.