The aging presidential helicopter fleet just got closer to its much-needed $1 billion-plus upgrade, as test models are now on track for government testing this year.
"We just completely installed the interior this week, and so those two test aircraft will get to the government this year for testing," Sikorsky program director Spencer Elani said Monday during a briefing at the Sea-Air-Space conference, the largest maritime expo in the United States.
The latest step is a "key milestone," Elani said. The test helicopters would not be able to undergo advanced test flights without an interior.
The first of the six new helicopters for the fleet is slated to enter service in 2020, and production of all the aircraft is expected to finish in 2023.
The current fleet is composed of 19 helicopters, the oldest of which were built around 1975 — making them older than President Donald Trump's grown children.
Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin, is under contract to deliver the next set of helicopters, which are referred to by their military designation, VH-92A, and are known as Marine One when the president rides in them.
Much like their sister aircraft, Air Force One, little is known about Marine One helicopters and the pilots tasked to fly them.
"It's carpeted, and there are 12 seats for the president and other passengers," Elani told CNBC when asked to share more details.
The helicopters, dubbed "white tops" for their signature paint job, are flown by pilots from the Marine Helicopter Squadron One, better known as HMX-1 or "Nighthawks."
They are equipped with ballistic armor, secure communication lines to the White House and Pentagon, and antimissile defenses.
"It's also very quiet, so much so that you can have a conversation," Elani said, noting that the helicopter is "a smooth and comfortable ride."