TODAY | January 11, 2014
>>> presidents since dwight eisenhower have been flying aboard the special military helicopter known as "marine one," but it's not how it ferries the president around that's fascinating. take a look here. it's how the helicopter itself is transported from place to place that caught our attention. peter alexander is at the white house now with a rare look at what it's like to travel aboard "marine one." peter, good morning.
>> reporter: lester, good morning to you. this was really some pretty unique access we were given. the u.s. is the only country on the planet that flies its own transportation, including a marine one helicopter, anywhere in the world when its head of state travels. of course, you can't chopper across the ocean, and it would take like 25 hours of flying just to cross the country, so how do they do it? we went on the road with "marine one." coming in for a landing at the southern california military airfield , an air force c-17 carrying the first of two marine one helicopters here for president obama 's upcoming trip. within minutes of touchdown, the sikorski v-83c king is unloaded, even with its rotor blades removed before the cross-country flight, it's a tight fit. as the sun sets, crew chief jason diaz ferries the folded-up helicopter to this secure hangar, where the complex reconstruction begins.
>> it's challenging. all the training and all the stuff that we do, it makes it easy.
>> reporter: putting "marine one" back together is both painstaking and precise. from top to bottom, it will take more than 20 marines up to four hours to have this helicopter ready to fly again. one by one, the helicopter's blades are reattached under staff sergeant diaz's watch. this will be his final out-of-town presidential assignment.
>> it's kind of bittersweet. i enjoyed it. it's a lot of work.
>> reporter: mechanics swarm the helicopter. last-minute precipitations and a final polish before putting "marine one" to bed ahead of tomorrow's dry run. early the next morning --
>> welcome to l.a.
>> reporter: marine one's pilot briefed the crew in support of the helicopters flown in from a nearby marine base.
>> we're going to rehearse what we're going to execute on monday.
>> reporter: time is precious. the president lands in barely 48 hours . the formation will include two white-topped helicopters, one to fly the president, the other available if any unexpected issues arise.
>> right now, we're about 1,000 feet up on board one of the helicopters here for the president's trip. this is an exact dress rehearsal for when he arrives.
>> reporter: from this vantage point, the view along california california's coast is spectacular.
>> l.a.x. just ahead of us there.
>> reporter: our first stop, l.a.x., where president obama will arrive on " air force one." it's a carefullily core grated series of maneuvers, with both helicopters taxiing to their exact positions.
>> we've got to get it right and that's something we're not willing to sacrifice getting it right.
>> reporter: we quickly boarded and took off for the president's next stop, just a few miles away . the landing zone , a middle school ball field. the next takes us over the l.a. skyline with the hollywood sign in the distance. guiding the helicopters in at each location, white house liaison officers, pilots themselves serving as air traffic controllers on the ground. "marine one's" arrival even leaves neighbors stunned. by day's end, three stops, three flawless landings. finally, the president's on his way, what captain maese calls game day .
>> it's a job, unfortunately it's the most stressful job than anywhere else in the world, but we take it on as a team and get it done.
>> reporter: another presidential mission completed without a hitch. so, one good question, why not just leave a pair of marine one helicopters on the west coast ? the presidential helicopter squadron says there simply aren't enough of them to do that and that leaving them there would also mean leaving marines there as well. it's just simply not an option, lester.
>> i'm thinking of the will smith line. what was the movie, " independence day "? i've got to get me one of