Have you ever wondered what it would be like to President? To have your own helicopter - Marine One - take you wherever you need (or want) to go?
I know I have. How nice it must be to skip right by traffic jams and take a chopper wherever you need to go.
Needless to say, I was stoked to take a tour of Marine One a couple weeks ago and see how the President travels.
You're probably wondering how in the hell I stumbled into this amazing opportunity. Well, you might not realize this, but I'm kind of a big deal. And by that I mean I have a very generous friend who does cool things for a living who took pity on me and my fascination with all things that fly.
A few months ago, this friend of mine offered to get me a tour of Marine One - He's definitely getting a bottle of whiskey for this.
I provided all the required info for a security check... then wondered what I'd done in my life that could cause an issue. But, hey, I wasn't flagged for anything. Victory!
Welcome to Quantico
After much anticipation, the tour day finally arrived. A group of us would get to take a behind the scenes tour of Marine One and the president's support team helicopters at the Quantico Marine Corps Base.
Naturally, I was running late that morning and rushing out the door. Nothing like a little adrenaline to kick things into gear.
I arrived at the base a few minutes early (victory #2!), provided my ID to a police officer at the gate, and told him I was there for an HMX-1 tour.
He replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about." I thought it was a joke. Ha. Ha.
Lucky for me, my buddy got on the phone with him and straightened it all out. Hmm… maybe I’m not quite as big of a deal I thought.
Marine One: Going Behind The Scenes
So, we made it through all the security procedures and were finally allowed to see Marine One.
It. Was. Glorious. A massive hangar full of the President's helicopters.
Naturally, I was excited to jump in and take a joyride around the base. Yeah, that definitely didn't happen. If you were wondering, they take security quite seriously. If I didn't understand that from the outset, the two armed escorts made that abundantly clear.
They did, however, let us climb into Marine One to see its new interior. After seeing the 1980s interior of another one of the helicopters, this updated to a very modern 1990s style seemed like quite the upgrade!
No one is mistaking this for the glitz and glamor of Emirates first class. Still, it's actually much more spacious than you would expect for a helicopter. There's plenty of space on the couch/bench for staff and there are two individual seats - one for the president, obviously. Even the individual seats aren't that spacious. Bigger than economy class, but nothing crazy.
Oh, one more thing. They make you take off your shoes to enter Marine One. Wouldn't want to ruin the luxurious carpet! I like to think my feet left an indelible mark on Marine One.
If you're wondering why I'm not sharing any pictures of the interior, it's because that's a BIG no-no. And when your armed Marine escort says no. ya listen!
As the Marines often say, “Leave only footprints, take only memories.” Okay, that might not be what they say, but they probably were thinking it.
After touring the President’s helicopters, we were off to the next part of our tour - the V-22 Osprey support helicopters.
Presidential Support Helicopters
Once out of the secure facility, we were free to run wild.
If you like rollercoasters or are up for an adventure, the V-22 Osprey is your kind of helicopter. This thing is amazing. Can you imagine a helicopter flying from DC to Chicago in 90 minutes?! Well, you don't have to imagine it. The Osprey does it. Seriously, commercial aircraft take 90 minutes to get to Chicago from DC. It'd be a fun race!
Now, I don't know how I would feel after such a ride. I was told the pilots like to have quite a bit of fun while flying which can make for a rough initiation for newbies. Would I like to try it? You bet. Would I cry? Maybe.
Once inside the Osprey, you realize that it's about performance, not comfort. It's bare bones. But, they can do amazing things like refuel while in-flight.
Final Thoughts: Marine One Is Awesome
Let's get straight to the points...
I've seen some pretty cool things in the last couple of years - mostly thanks to miles and points - and, while I might make jokes, this was one of coolest things I've ever done.
Not only are Marine One and the Ospreys amazing in and of themselves, but the amount of work that goes into maintaining these machines and running this operation is simply stunning.
It might not be as easy to book a tour as it is to get a first class seat on Emirates but with the right friend, you just might be able to make it happen!