Crunching Gravel - 146s Down Under

If you are going to beat up an airliner by flying repeatedly to remote gravel airstrips, it might as well be a BAe 146. And that's what Cobham Aviation is doing for Australia's booming mining industry.

Photo: Cobham

Cobham has won a two-year Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) contract to fly Xstrata Nickel Australasia (XNA) employees by BAe 146-100 to the gravel airstrip at the Cosmos Nickel Mine in Western Australia. The 146 is replacing smaller and slower turboprops previously used by XNA. The 71-seat aircraft are equipped with airframe-protection “gravel kits”  that allow operations from unsealed airstrips.

Under a two-year FIFO contract, Cobham flies five services a week between Perth and the Cosmos mine 650km to the northeast. The company also flies to the Murrin Murrin Nickel Mine, 900km to the northeast, for Minara Resources, and flies gravel kit-equipped jets to Kambalda, Western Australia, for a mining consortium. Australian mining operations are also a big market for another relic of Europe's non-Airbus airliner past, the Fokker 70/100. 'Nuff said...

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