The hiring process is under way at the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville to find capable employees who will eventually be working to maintain the Marine One presidential helicopter fleet after negotiations with a private company recently fell through.
An official announcement to move the maintenance work to Jacksonville has not been made by the U.S. Navy, but job opportunities have been posted online in anticipation of the decision, said Terresa White, spokeswoman for Fleet Readiness Center.
“We are definitely in preparations to take on the work load, so that’s the intention, and if we are chosen then we will be performing that maintenance,” White said.
Aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky had previously maintained the fleet at a facility in Stratford, Conn.
Sikorsky was acquired by Maryland-based Lockheed Martin in 2015, but negotiations to keep the contract with the Navy were unsuccessful.
“The Navy informed us in July of their decision to transfer the work to a government facility in Jacksonville,” said Paul Jackson, spokesman for Sikorsky. “We have supported this critical, no-fail mission for more than 40 years and we have signed a contract to continue supporting it during the transition. Any additional information should come from the Navy.”
In August members of Connecticut’s delegation sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus asking him to review the costs of a relocation before making a decision.
The letter said the employees at the Sikorsky facility in Connecticut — about 85 total — had better expertise than any other place in the country.
The Navy would not confirm the transition to Jacksonville, but White said the facility at Jacksonville Naval Air Station is already performing similar maintenance work.
“We overhaul about 20 helicopters a year,” White said.
She said the center has the capability to maintain three of the VH-60N White Hawks at a time. The helicopters are referred to as Marine One when the president of the United States is on board.
White said the Fleet Readiness Center employs a little more than 4,000 workers and started its vertical lift program in 1991.
Candidates interested in maintaining the Marine One presidential fleet can apply for the positions at usajobs.gov.
White said it’s unclear how many jobs would be created if the maintenance work is awarded to the Fleet Readiness Center, but qualified civilians would be eligible for the positions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.