The race for the presidency is not the only high-stakes campaign going on for an important job in Washington. Rival defense contractors are spending millions on advertising and making the rounds at Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and with reporters to convince decision-makers to grant the contract for the next “Marine One.” There has been a presidential helicopter since the 1950s, and most of them have been made by an aviation firm founded by a Russian immigrant. Nick Lappos is program manager at Sikorsky for the presidential V-X-X helicopter program. Lappos says one of the partners in the program is Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, which has done lots of work on many of the firm’s helicopters. Rockwell Collins makes radios, navigation gear and the “avionics” used by many military aircraft as well as commercial airlines. Competing bidder Lockheed is touting plans for a new presidential helicopter created by a British and Italian company. Sikorsky in turn is promoting its Superhawk design as an “All-American” aircraft. Lockheed’s Augusta-Westland is planning to build the competing chopper in Texas, but Sikorsky’s gathered its “American Team” including Iowa’s Rockwell Collins, who now help make the presidential helicopters, to try and get the bid. Lappos says “the clock’s ticking” on the decision to grant the seven-Billion-dollar contract for making the next generation of presidential “Marine One” helicopters.Despite some delays in the process, the government tells the contractor the decision’s likely by the middle of December. The international Lockheed team is betting on its connections with nations that supported the US in Iraq. A Sikorsky helicopter last month made a landing in Cedar Rapids as part of a whistle-stop tour of partner companies, to point out to workers at Rockwell Collins that their company’s made the communications and other equipment in every Air Force One and Marine One presidential aircraft ever flown.
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