Nixon’s Helicopter

A news item caught my attention earlier this evening,  which said that the helicopter on display at the Richard Nixon Memorial Library in Yorba Linda, CA was being taken to Chino for restoration and refurbishment, having been baking in the California sun for the last 9 years or so.

Richard Nixon boarding Army One, 1974
Richard Nixon boarding Army One upon his departure from the White House after resigning the office of President of the United States following the Watergate Scandal in 1974.
Photo by Ollie Atkins –  Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

This is another of those iconic images for the student of American history,  and not surprisingly even the helicopter has a story.  I tend to lump Sea Kings together, but this one is a Sikorsky VH-3A, Bureau number (BuNo)150617, indicating it was purchased for the US Navy or Marine Corps.   Sources say it was built in 1960, so it’s had a fairly full life. 150617 was in the presidential fleet from 1960 to 1976.  During its presidential service, the helicopter was known either as Marine One or Army One, depending on whether Marine or Army pilots were flying it.  I’m not clear what happened to it after 1976, but in 2000 Nixon’s former chief helicopter pilot Gene Boyer discovered it at a U.S. Navy museum in Quonset Point, R.I., “wrapped in plastic” minus its tail, and minus any rotor blades.   You can see the 2005 Chicago Tribune article about the rescue here.  Boyer arranged the Sea King’s transfer to the March AFB museum for restoration in October 2005 and from there to the Nixon Memorial Library.

VH-3A BuNo 150617 at the Nixon Memorial Library, Yorba Linda, CA
VH-3A BuNo 150617 at the Nixon Memorial Library, Yorba Linda, CA in 2007. Uploaded by Geographer at English Wikipedia – CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Fast forward to 2016, and 150617  is seemingly looking a little tired, so as the library itself emerges after a major remodel,  the helicopter is going to be spruced up too.

Here are a couple of articles from the local media in southern  California which tell a brief story of the restoration: