STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – For more than six decades, we have seen the helicopter known as Marine One land outside the White House. This year, it lands inside on the White House Christmas tree.
“The White House historical association has been making these wonderful, American-made ornaments since 1981,” explained Stewart McLaurin, the president of the White House Historical Association.
Each year, the association picks a different President to highlight, and this year it is Dwight Eisenhower, the first U.S. President to use a helicopter to get around.
“It was somewhat happenstance,” McLaurin said. “He needed to get somewhere quickly, a helicopter was available, it took him there and they thought, ‘Well, why don’t we adapt this for more permanent use?'”
That helicopter was a Sikorsky H-34, made in Connecticut. Eisenhower liked to show it off. He even took soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev for a ride in 1959. A little version of that aircraft is this year’s chosen ornament.
“We were overjoyed to hear the news about Marine One and Eisenhower’s helicopter in particular,” said Pierr Garant, Sikorsky’s Director of Marine Corps Sustainment.
While Eisenhower was the first, the next eleven presidents have also used Sikorsky helicopters. The aircraft has become almost as iconic as the White House itself.
The Historical Association funds its effort to keep the White House in museum-quality shape by selling these ornaments every year. There’s always one on the inside on the official white house tree.
Sikorsky aircraft does not just make Marine One, it also closely maintains every helicopter you see landing on the outside of the White House.
“To keep it reliable and safe for the president takes a lot of reachback and support,” Garant said. “24/7, Sikorsky is partnered with Marine One in accomplishing the mission around the world.”
The Marine One helicopters fly back to Stratford for all their major maintenance.
You can purchase the official White House Christmas ornament here.