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Aerial firefighter: Former passenger jet finds new purpose

A four-engine jet-powered former passenger plane is now part of the firefighting force at the Brainerd Tanker Base. The British Aerospace BAe-146 was converted from a regional passenger jet service into an aerial firefighter. The BAe-146 first to...

Brainerd Tanker Base personnel listen to a briefing Wednesday at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Tanker Base at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport on how to load fire retardant into the BAe-146 air tanker. Fire danger remained high in the lakes region. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd Tanker Base personnel listen to a briefing Wednesday at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Tanker Base at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport on how to load fire retardant into the BAe-146 air tanker. Fire danger remained high in the lakes region. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

A four-engine jet-powered former passenger plane is now part of the firefighting force at the Brainerd Tanker Base.

The British Aerospace BAe-146 was converted from a regional passenger jet service into an aerial firefighter. The BAe-146 first took to the skies 37 years ago from the British Aerospace airfield at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, BAE Systems Regional Aircraft reported, noting 394 of the aircraft were built. Now one of those jets, known for its quiet engines, is part of the aerial tools to fight wildfires in Minnesota, operating out of Brainerd. The aircraft has found a variety of service duties since its passenger service heyday, including freight service, charter service and firefighting.

Dana Place, pilot for T-03, gave a briefing on loading the BAe-146 to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Brainerd Tanker Base personnel Wednesday afternoon at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

The BAe-146 qualifies as a "next-generation" air tanker, which require the aircraft to be turbine or turbofan (jet) powered, be able to cruise at 300 knots (345 mph), and have a retardant capacity of at least 3,000 gallons. The Brainerd Tanker Base currently has a helicopter, air attack, lead plane and two FireBoss crafts available for wildfire dispatches. These aircraft are statewide resources.

Fire danger was elevated across the state as of Wednesday, ranging from moderate to very high. With wildfires popping up across the area in recent days, fire danger was still high in Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Morrison, Todd and Mille Lacs counties, meaning fires start easily and spread at a fast rate. Wadena County was in moderate fire danger. Burning restrictions were in place across the state with burning permits required across most of Minnesota and no burning permits issued, but campfires allowed in the far northwest portion of the state.

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Brainerd Tanker Base personnel listen to a briefing Wednesday at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Tanker Base at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport on how to load fire retardant into the BAe-146 air tanker. Fire danger remained high in the lakes region. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd Tanker Base personnel listen to a briefing Wednesday at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Tanker Base at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport on how to load fire retardant into the BAe-146 air tanker. Fire danger remained high in the lakes region. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

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