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The United States Forest Service has selected modified BAE 146 as their newest generation water bombing aircraft.
One BAE 146 passenger jet had been modified as a water bomber by Neptune Aviation, Missoula, Montana. The aircraft was successfully evaluated. Neptune plans to acquire and convert eleven of the aircraft to replace its current fleet of piston engine water bombers. Two additional BAE 146 water bombers are expected to join Neptune's fleet by the end of July 2012. Several other companies are also in the process of converting BAE 146 aircraft for use as water bombers in the near future.
Neptune tells us that the BAE 146 is quieter in operation than the aircraft it currently operates. They are easier to refuel, using only a single connection.
The engines of the BAE 146 should prove more reliable than those on the piston engine aircraft. They consume only a fraction of the lubricating oil during normal operations.
It will be possible to reach a designated area in about half the time due to the BAE 146 having about double the speed of the piston engine aircraft, and also being able to cruise at higher altitudes.
The BAE 146 also carries nearly double the retardant load, and is capable of precise delivery of retardant in varied amounts as specified by the crew, depending upon need.
British Aerospace produced a total of 387 BAE 146 airliners before production ended in 2001.