OLNEY, Texas — An international gathering of dignitaries were on hand as Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch, presented the company's 3,000th Air Tractor airplane to its new owners from Brazil. The Air Tractor AT-502B, a bright yellow single-seat agricultural aircraft rolled off the Olney, Texas company's production line in mid July and is recently returned from a being on display at EAA AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
"This is a big milestone for Air Tractor," says Hirsch. "I wish Air Tractor's founder Leland Snow could be here to enjoy this moment. The model 502B is the most popular, best flying ag plane in the world, and Leland Snow designed it himself." The 500-gallon capacity AT-502B is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34AG turbine engine, which generates 750 SHP at 2200 RPM. The powerplant and the airplane's 52-foot wingspan, allow the 502B to carry over two tons of liquid or dry material. Among agricultural pilots around the world, the airplane is considered a safe, comfortable airplane to fly, light on the controls and a reliable workhorse.
Air Tractor number 3,000 was purchased by Agropecuaria Maggi Ltda., an agribusiness subsidiary of the André Maggi Group, a Brazilian agricultural conglomerate, and the largest private producer of soybeans in the world. Agropecuaria Maggi is based in Sapezal, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Itamar Locks, a partner in Agropecuaria Maggi, and Pedro Valente, Agro Division Director were on hand for the Air Tractor celebration. The company also operates three other Air Tractor AT-502B aircraft for spraying crops of soybeans cotton and corn.
Pratt & Whitney Canada President John Saabas travelled from Canada to be part of the festivities and to express his appreciation for Air Tractor's four-decade use of Pratt & Whitney engines. All current Air Tractor aircraft are powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6 turbine engine series. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic engine.
Randy Neugebauer, U.S. Representative, Texas District 19; Texas State Senator Craig Estes and representatives for Texas State Representative Drew Springer were also in attendance, along with Air Tractor employees, and Air Tractor/AeroGlobo dealers Grant Lane and Fabiano Zaccarelli Cunha, who facilitated the 3,000th Air Tractor sale to Agropecuaria Maggi.
The Air Tractor #3000 AT-502B was on display inside Plant 2A. Given the typical 100+ degree west Texas summer temperature outside, most guests attending the event were inclined to remain inside for the Texas barbecue luncheon and guided tour of Air Tractor manufacturing facilities. But those venturing outside were presented with a static airplane display representing the history of Air Tractor. Air Tractor's 1000 gallon aircraft, the AT-1002, an aerial firefighting AT-802F, Walt Disney Studio's "Dusty" AT-400, and an AT-802A ag plane were parked next to Air Tractor AT-300 S/N 0002, the earliest existing Air Tractor. The R-985 radial engine-powered aircraft was purchased by the Snow family last year from Tim Steier of Blue Earth Aviation in Minnesota.
Jim Hirsch remarked that Air Tractor has come a long way since its early days, when in 1975 the company celebrated its annual production of 25 airplanes. "Today, we produce more ag airplanes in a year than all our competitors combined. Last year Air Tractor produced and sold 180 aircraft, an all-time company record," says Hirsch. "Just over half of our aircraft sales are exports, which reflects the strong market presence our global dealer network has in key markets." Hirsch adds, "It's a pleasure to deliver Air Tractor #3,000 to Agropecuaria Maggi; and my congratulations also go to Air Tractor dealer Lane Aviation and Aeroglobo Aeronaves who sold this historic airplane."
ABOUT AIR TRACTOR
At its Olney Texas manufacturing facilities, Air Tractor produces a line of eight aircraft that includes 400, 500, 600 and 800-gallon capacity planes powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. They are used for agricultural purposes, fire fighting, narcotic crop eradication, fuel-hauling, fighting locust plagues, military strike/reconnaissance, and cleaning up oil spills in coastal waters. From North, South and Central America, to Australia, Indonesia and China to Spain, Italy, Croatia and Africa, Air Tractor aircraft can be found in more than 30 countries around the world and are supported by a global network of Air Tractor dealers.