By Roger Currie
One of the most familiar photos that we see of Barack Obama and other American presidents is the shot of them boarding the Marine One helicopter on the White House lawn. The chopper takes the boss to Andrews Air Force base where the journey continues on Air Force One. Did you know that 15 of those former presidential helicopters now belong to the Royal Canadian Air Force?
If you have the misfortune to get lost in the wilderness, you might actually get to ride in one of them. Four years ago, the Americans sold off the choppers so that the military establishment could spend a few billion dollars buying new ones, even though the old ones were in remarkably good shape.
Unlike the leaky second hand submarines that we bought from the British, this appears to have been a very good deal for Canada. The total price was $164 million. In addition to the 15 aircraft, it included more than 850,000 spare parts. The original intent was to strip the choppers themselves for more parts, but one of our brighter bean counters has now decided that if they were OK to fly Obama and two guys named Bush, they should be fine for search and rescue in the true north strong and free.
Turns out they’re very similar to the Cormorant helicopters that Canada is currently using for search and rescue. In fact there’s strong evidence that they’re better and safer. One of the Cormorants, made in Italy, crashed during a training exercise in Nova Scotia in 2006, killing three members of the Canadian Forces. Like much of our military hardware, the rest of the aircraft will likely soon be in need of expensive repairs.
Hey, I wonder if the new choppers from Washington play Hail to the Chief when you start them up? Just curious.