The Military Helicopters That Scoop Up Obama In His Front Yard Have An Incredible History

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A National Geographic documentary offers a rare glimpse into the Marine Corps unit responsible for flying the President of the United States via helicopter.

Marine Helicopter Squadron 1.

For 50 years, they have been in charge of flying the President of the United States, and they’ve never got it wrong.

That’s right. Zero mishaps in 50 years.

There’s no unit in the military like it, no unit in the world like it. Only the President of the United States is transported by his own military’s helicopter everywhere in the world.¬†

Just a few hundred Marines are charged with executing and overseeing that duty.

Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 was founded in 1947, initially to develop helicopter tactics in warfare

Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to fly in a helicopter, during this ride to Camp David in July 1957

Just a few months later, Eisenhower was vacationing in Rhode Island when he was needed at the White House. Rather than make the 45 minute drive to Air Force One, he took an HMX-1 helicopter that was on standby nearby in case of emergencies. The trip took just seven minutes

HMX-1 Marines have been in charge of transporting the president ever since.

The commanding officer's job is to oversee the execution of the mission, be responsible for the Marines, and fly the president with a rotating team of three other pilots

HMX-1 is now the largest flying squadron in the Marine Corps, with roughly 700 Marines and 35 aircraft. Aircraft with a white top can carry the president. The others fill a support role

The team at HMX-1 includes security elements who protect the squadron's aircraft and other assets

Just four pilots get the chance to be a part of the detail that flies the President of the United States

There's a rigorous selection process, with several rounds of testing. Here a pilot is performing a test on a simulator, but few even reach that point

There are three Marines on the crew for a typical Marine One flight. Two pilots ...

... and an enlisted crew chief

They primarily fly the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, a helicopter that has been in service since 1961

The aircraft holds 12, including Secret Service

Of course, there's a special seat for the president

When the president goes overseas, the Marines are on hand to support. The U.S. is the only government in the world that does this

They often use a variant of the Blackhawk that can fold up and fit inside an Air Force C-17

HMX-1 is based at Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, just about 30 miles south of Washington

When they fly to the White House, they must fly low and follow a very specific route

Good thing these pilots are combat ready Marines

The views are spectacular

Especially at night

Rotors spinning, they land on the White House's South Lawn

They fly many identical copies of the same aircraft, so potential attackers don't know which carries the president

But the vast majority of Marines never see a special unit like HMX-1

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