Plane passing the test at Minden Air
The BAe 146 turbofan jet plane looked shiny and new on the tarmac at Minden-Tahoe Airport as engineers from British Aerospace poked, prodded and readjusted everything from nose to tail.
Inside, the seats were being removed and a group of inspectors from the Federal Aviation Agency dropped by for a look.
Minden Air Corp would like to convert the passenger plane into a fire-bomber. The testing should be completed next week and Tim Christy, chief pilot, said everything looks good.
“There haven’t been any real problems and the plane is very quiet,” he said.
This will be the first time one of these planes has been converted to a fire-bomber and the tests have been ongoing for about a week.
The plane exceeds FAA requirements for noise abatement. Its four turbine-driven engines need less maintenance and are more reliable than piston-driven planes and they’re about the same size as the P2V plane Minden Air currently flies, so they’ll fit well into the current loading facilities, Christy said.
Minden Air officials have been looking at the planes for four years and are considering the plane in part, because the Forest Service will be requiring an all-turbine force by 2008. At that time, Minden Air’s PV2 will be obsolete, he said.
Minden Air owner Janet Parker said the Forest Service is also watching the trials closely. The plane will be going through a one-year testing process, but won’t be available to other fire bombers until it has been tested for a year.
First built in the early 1980s, these planes have been used primarily for passengers. The plane being considered will cost about $2 million.
Susie Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 213.