The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new plane for students to work on at its Community and Technical College, donated by Bering Air Inc, out in Nome.
A 1978 King Air 200 is small, so far as airline travel goes, but you can still see the reflection of the entire CTC Aviation Facility in its propeller.
Kevin Alexander, an associate professor with the aviation maintenance program, said this is the first large commercial aircraft donation since the facility received a FedEx 727 jet back in 2013.
“It’s quite a bit smaller than the FedEx plane, but as far as bush planes go it would be big,” he said.
Although, Alexander said, the new plane is “not really a bush plane, per se.” The definition of what constitutes a bush plane has changed somewhat over time and he said this plane is a pretty modern, business class twin turboprop aircraft.
The King Air 200, or Beech 200, would be used strictly for maintenance training for CTC students, according to Alexander, who said it would be “a huge improvement on the equipment we have to train mechanics on here within our facility and so the graduates we’ll be putting out will be more equipped to deal with Alaskan aircrafts.”
Ben Koelsch, director of maintenance with Bering Air, said prior to donation the plane was scheduled to get upgraded, but due to its age and value, it made more sense not to upgrade it. Instead, they heard from vendors that a school might be interested in looking at it and the company subsequently looked into giving the plane to the University of Alaska Anchorage or UAF.
“UAF was really excited about the possibility of getting it,” he said. “It really seemed like they wanted it and it just kind of felt like that was the right thing to do.”
Koelsch flew in on the aircraft, designated N79CF, around 2 p.m. on Wednesday and met a small crowd of university faculty awaiting its arrival.
The plane, called Charley Fox for the CF in its tail number, has had quite the adventurous life with Bering Air. It was initially manufactured in 1978 and was bought by Bering Air owner, Jim Rowe, in 1994.
Since flying to Nome, Charley Fox has completed thousands of medevac flights, charter flights, flights to Russia and has been in temperatures lower than 70 below. It comes to UAF with 22,840 total flight hours and over 6 million miles flown.
“Now Charley Fox is a beauty,” said Anupma Prakash, provost and executive vice chancellor with UAF.
Prakash came to the facility Wednesday afternoon and was waiting at the hangar for the plane to come in from the runway. She said for an aircraft to have been so sturdy and seen so much of the Arctic is fascinating.
“Something with that kind of legacy — it’s a great donation from Bering Air to the University of Alaska Fairbanks,” Prakash said, “and it’s very special to us, very special for our students who are going to work on this and use that in their learning experience because they get connected in a different way.”
The instructors at the CTC Aviation Facility were happy to see the plane arriving.
“This is exciting. This is really cool,” Alexander said. “To have the direct industry support like this, to have an aircraft that modernizes our fleet, that makes us better equipped to train mechanics. This is a perfect situation.”
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7572.