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Cobham BAe 146 performs final flight in WA

written by Hannah Dowling | November 8, 2021
Cobham BAe 146-RJ100 at Murrin Murrin. (Cobham)

Charter, FIFO and special missions operator Cobham has completed its final British Aerospace 146 flight in Western Australia, ending nearly four decades of operations in the state.

The final flight, a FIFO flight for Minara Resources, touched down in Perth from Murrin Murrin at around 8:05pm on Thursday.

To mark the occasion, the aircraft, VH-NJY, was welcomed in Perth with a water cannon salute.

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NJY has since been deployed to South Australia, where Cobham has consolidated its BAe146/RJ100 operations. Instead, Cobham will operate its fleet of Embraer E190 and De Havilland Q400 aircraft to service the WA FIFO and resources sector.

The flight marked the end of an era, as the distinguishable four-engine jet has operated in WA since 1985, initially by both Ansett and National Jet Systems (which later became Cobham).

Since 1990, National Jet Systems and Cobham have operated a total of 33 BAe 146 aircraft in the region, with Cobham fitting several of the aircraft with a “gravel kit” to for high-capacity jet operations to more remote mine sites in WA.

Using its BAe 146/RJ100 fleet, Cobham supported FIFO contracts for BHP, Rio Tinto and Anaconda, as well as commercial operations to Cocos Island and Christmas Island.

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The operator also utilises four BAe 146 freighter aircraft for the transport of essential overnight freight across the east coast of Australia.

Cobham business development director, Tim Pirga, said a large number of West Australians would have flown on a BAe 146 at some time in their life, whether travelling to regional WA destinations or working in the mining industry.

“The BAe 146 has been a workhorse of regional aviation in WA for many years. At their peak there would have been up to 16 of these aircraft operating in our state,” Pirga said.

“From Perth, our fleet has operated regular passenger transport services on behalf of QantasLink, FIFO flights for major clients in the resources industry, including Minara Resources (Murrin Murrin) for over 20 years and ad hoc charters throughout Australia and Southeast Asia.

“We’ve run charters to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final and to destinations in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.”

“These aircraft have proved extremely versatile due to their short take-off and landing capacity and low noise profile – they have been particularly popular on short to medium-haul flights to regional destinations.”

Speaking onboard VH-NJY’s final WA flight ahead of its final approach to Perth, Captain John Murdoch called the occasion a “historic flight”.

“Many of you would know the aircraft we’re traveling on today, the RJ100, is a variant of the old BAe 146 aircraft family, albeit a newer model, and you’ve traveled on this aircraft on the Murrin run, since 1998.

“This aircraft [model] has been operating in WA since 1985, initially with Ansett, then Cobham, formerly National Jet Systems, and this aircraft, in particular, arrived in Western Australia in 2010, having had a previous life with British Airways in the UK.”

Murdoch serves as fleet manager for Cobham’s BAe146/Avro RJ fleet.

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