USA — Jet planes land and take off every day at the Chico Municipal Airport, but one particular jet arrived and stayed.
It’s a BAe 146, built in 1989, that rolled into a hangar at 77 Piper Ave. last month.
That makes two BAe 146 jets in the Chico Municipal Airport hangar occupied by Air Spray. Both are in various stages of construction and deconstruction.
In 2012, Air Spray in Chico took possession of its first jet, and the staff has been working daily on its conversion from a passenger craft to an air tanker carrying 3,000 gallons of fire retardant destined for a wildfire.
That will be the same treatment for the second jet, both of which are owned by Air Spray, a Canadian company that opened a Chico branch at the airport in 2012.
Air Spray purchased the second plane from a foreign government, declining to name the selling country for competitive reasons, according to Chico General Manager Ravi Saip.
Having a second jet means the company has hired a few more technicians, and had to lease all of the hangar formerly leased by Aero Union instead of half.
The work here on jets is significant because it represents where the industry is going from former World War II planes to faster, safer and more gas-efficient jets, with a longer range.
Already the 90 leather seats in the plane have been removed from the BAe 146 and are destined for a place in the Chico Air Museum’s new quarters just down the road.
The first BAe 146 housed in Chico should be ready for the 2014 fire season, according to Saip, who looks at the two planes as a commitment to those who contract with Air Spray for wildfire suppression.
Those customers are primarily governments, including states like California. The second BAe 146’s arrival in Chico last month was delayed by bad weather elsewhere, but not so late that Air Spray’s visiting President/CEO Lynn Hamilton and Vice President/CFO Paul Lane from Canada missed the arrival.
Lynn’s late father, Don Hamilton, founded Air Spray.
Also in Chico, Air Spray’s operational Lockheed Electra L-188 and three pilots were recently certified by Cal Fire, and will be on call for help during California’s fire season.
The yellow and white Electra is visible outside Air Spray’s hangar.
Rather than returning to Air Spray’s home base in Red Deer, Alberta, the Electra will remain in Chico to be closer to California fire outbreaks.