Carson Valley residents got a little taste of the future of aerial firefighting this week when a jet tanker, owned by Minden Air Corp., was put through its paces.
The BAe-146 is being tested as part of its certification by the U.S. Forest Service for use in fighting wildfires.
The test drops showing how well the BAe-146 is able to cover an area are taking place at Minden-Tahoe Airport.
Members of the media will get a close up view of the aircraft in action this morning as part of the demonstration.
It has been more than 13 years since Minden Air owner Len Parker first developed the concept of using the British aircraft as a fire tanker.
The BAe-146 can carry 3,100 gallons, and fly twice the speed of a traditional tanker, while still being able to maneuver at low speeds needed for a retardant drop.
According to Minden Air’s website the aircraft has a 1,320-nautical-mile range with a full load.
Under the contract with the forest service, Minden Air provides the aircraft, flight and support crew, and support and maintenance.
But that doesn’t mean the aircraft will spend much time in Carson Valley during fire season.
“Rarely are our aircraft anywhere close to home,” Parker said during an interview in May 2013. “It’s not unusual to be 500 miles from where it was the day before.”
The contract with the forest service is part of an effort to modernize the heavy firefighting aircraft fleet.
Many of the propeller aircraft date back to the middle of the last century.
The forest service contract is for five years with five one-year options for a total of 10 years.
The forest service hopes to have seven jet-powered tankers in place.