Geneva, Switzerland.....BAE Systems announced today at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) that it is receiving a growing number of enquiries from existing and potential operators of the BAe 146/Avro RJ who are interested in using the aircraft for remote airfield operations for both private and commercial purposes.
Already one Avro Business Jet customer has used the aircraft fitted with the BAE Systems unpaved runway protection kit to operate regular flights into and out of a remote/unpaved African airfield.
But demand for this growing trend is also coming from several other market segments. These include mining resource companies who need the aircraft to access ever more remote exploration sites and who need an aircraft to fly in mineworkers and equipment.
In Australia, Cobham Aviation Services, which is one of the largest providers of contracted ‘Fly-in; Fly-out’ aircraft services to the mining resource industry, has plans to offer its customers access to gravel and unprepared airstrips in Australia using, initially, a BAe 146-100.
Another source of demand is remote tourism, where travellers want to experience short trips to unspoilt destinations. These could be for airline charters or, more exclusively, for smaller numbers of passengers within a business jet interior. The Avro Business Jet Explorer concept created with leading UK design company, Design Q, is designed to appeal to this type of clientele.
Chris Sedgwick, Technical Sales Executive for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft said: “Over the years the BAe 146 and Avro RJ have consistently demonstrated their suitability to operate economically into remote airfields, often with short unpaved runways. In many ways this aircraft is the ‘SUV’ of the business jet and indeed airliner market.
“We are now seeing growing demand for that type of operation. In addition to the operators already flying these types of services, we are in discussions with both private and airline clients who wish to use BAe 146/Avro RJs to operate from remote and unpaved airstrips.”
The smaller versions of the BAe 146/Avro RJ are already cleared for gravel runway operations and an unpaved runway protection kit is available as a standard modification. This is fitted via a Service Bulletin and provides protection from debris to the lower fuselage, landing gear and the undercarriage fairing panels. Protection is also given to the lower beacon together with the installation of more durable antennae. A nose wheel guard is also fitted between the tyres to deflect debris being thrown back to the fuselage. As airfields where unpaved protection kits are required are often of low bearing strength, low pressures tyres are essential.
Other ‘off the shelf’ modifications to enhance the aircraft’s independent operational capability such as forward and rear airstairs, dual battery start, steep approach and dual HF communications can also be fitted.
The BAe 146 design has a competitive advantage over low wing aircraft and also rear-engined aircraft due to the position and small diameter of its engines and the ground clearance afforded by the high wing. This is coupled with a large and comfortable interior seating between 70-85 passengers or a bespoke executive interior, together with ample baggage space.
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The two aircraft are part of a fleet of 17 BAe 146 and Avro RJ aircraft that are used by Cobham Aviation Services Australia.