Any discussion of public safety operations at the Douglas County Minden Tahoe Airport begins with the resident Civil Air Patrol Squadron commanded by Maj. Brad Spires.
CAP is a congressionally chartered, federally supported non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP is a volunteer organization that performs congressionally assigned key missions: air search, ground rescue coordination, and disaster relief; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth.
While CAP’s emergency service capabilities are most immediately impactful to those they may help, anyone with children interested in aviation should check out the CAP cadet program on facebook.com/pages/Douglas-County-Composite-Squadron to learn about how to join and qualify for power and glider pilot ratings. The CAP office at MT Airport is located next door to the airport administrative office.
While MT Airport isn’t technically a base for firefighting aircraft, planes and helicopters used to suppress fires in our area often take advantage of the MT Airport facilities. Nine helicopters from six companies and several fixed wing planes fought the Bison fire, following the direction of an air born flight controller flying high overhead. Washoe County Sheriff’s Office’s RAVEN helicopter, a modern HH - 1H Huey, which is also certified for firefighting, is an occasional visitor to our airport.
Minden Air Corporation, which is based at the airport, converts jet airliners into fire retardant bombers. Corporate officer and chief pilot Tim Christy told me that Minden Air moved into its current location on P-51 Court off Heybourne Road in 2000, giving it plenty of elbow room to work on very large aircraft. Perhaps the largest commercial operation at MT Airport, Minden Air generates between $5,000,000 and $6,000,000 revenue per year and employs about 20 people. Most of their income is plowed back into the Douglas County economy in the form of salaries, services, and supplies.
CEO Leonard Parker is a 17,000-hour pilot, aircraft and powerplant technician, and large aircraft rebuilder whose crop dusting experience prepared him for the challenges of precision air delivery of fire retardant.
Minden Air is currently installing its proprietary tanking and dispersal system into a four-engine BAE-146 airliner, now known as Tanker 46. Bigger, faster, and with longer legs than their current crop of P2V propeller-powered planes, Tanker 46 has the range to deliver 3000 gallons of retardant to anywhere in Nevada.
Next time you’re in the area, have breakfast or lunch at the Taildragger and stop in at the CAP office to thank the volunteers for donating their time to the cause of safety. If you look upfield, you will see Tanker 46 in its bright colors outside the Minden Air workshop as it gets fitted for its new role as a firefighting aircraft.
Douglas County Airport Advisory Committee member