With a high-pitched whine and roar, the gleaming 737-200 touched down at Great Bend Municipal Airport at about noon Thursday.
Two and a half hours earlier, the large Hawaii-based Transair cargo plane had left Merced, Calif., bound for Columbus, Ohio. The Great Bend visit was a refueling stop for the white, 70,000-pound aircraft with orange tips on its two engines and tail.
“We took on 1,500 gallons,” said Fred Sorenson, one of the three pilots on the flight. That amounted to about 10,000 pounds and $6,500.
That is one of the reasons the crew opted to land at GBMA. “They made us a good deal,” Sorenson said of Centerline Aviation, the fixed base operator at the airport. When buying that much fuel, a $1 a gallon makes a big difference.
In addition to the fuel price, the ease of getting into and out of the airport was appealing to Sorenson and company since the runway was long enough (but almost too narrow) and the traffic light.
“They were very accommodating,” Sorenson said of the local airport officials. “The hospitality was great.”
They took off from an airport smaller than Great Bend Thursday morning, Sorenson said.
In fact, he said, on their trip back to California in about a month and a half, they will again land at Great Bend. Then, they will gas up with 5,000 gallons.
The three are part of a delivery company transporting the plane for Transair to Ohio so it can be certified and new pilots trained. “We move the plane around for them,” said Sorenson, who calls Las Vegas home.
This is the first jet to enter the Transair fleet and will be used only for cargo, the pilot said. Up until now, the freight company has used smaller, turbo-prop aircraft.
The plane will eventually wind up back in Hawaii and wil fly mostly between the Hawaiian Islands, and perhaps to Christmas and Midway islands, some 1,100 miles away.
The last airliner to land at Great Bend was a 727 carrying then Senator Bob Dole in the 1980s. Although the pavement at GBMA is not rated for craft this heavy, airport Manager Martin Miller said they received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for this landing.
The Boeing 737 is a short- to medium-range, twin-engine narrow-body jet airliner. Originally developed as a shorter, lower-cost twin-engine airliner derived from Boeing’s 707 and 727, the 737 has developed into a family of nine passenger models with a capacity of 85 to 215 passengers.
The 737 series is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation. The 737 has been continuously manufactured by Boeing since 1967 with 7,010 aircraft delivered and 2,365 orders yet to be fulfilled as of December, 2011.
The planes are 100-130 feet long with a wingspan of between 93-112 feet, depending on the variation. This is a 737-200 and will fall into the smaller of the size categories.
The maximum speed is about 540 miles per hour.