Cobham Aviation Services has fitted gravel kits to two BAe 146-100s, allowing them to operate into the unsealed airstrips serving many mines, which hitherto have only been able to accept turboprops. The kits include a special rubber coating on the lower fuselage, a deflector on the nose wheel, a kevlar shield around the main landing gear, and low pressure tyres. Cobham’s technical pilot Captain Gordon Browne AO, formerly a test pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force, led the 18 month program to test the kits and the corresponding modifications to the flight manual. Final approval was received from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in January. So far, two BAe 146-100s have been modified at the airline’s facilites in Perth and Adelaide: VH-NJC (msn E1013) and VH-NJR (msn E1152) – ironically, one of the oldest and one of the youngest -100s still in service. Several more conversions are planned. The first services to gravel strips are being operated to the Kambalda and Cosmos mines east of Perth.
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