Air Tractor was a busy place during 2009 and introduced a bevy of new developments, new products and new technological enhancements at the 2009 National Agricultural Aviation Association Convention in Reno, Nevada last December.
AT-504 Now Certificated
Leading the announcements is news that Air Tractor's innovative 2-seat trainer, the AT-504, has passed all certification requirements and is now fully FAA-approved. The AT-504, based on Air Tractor's proven AT-502 airframe, offers speed, performance and capacity comparable to AT-502 while providing an ideal side-by-side training platform for turboprop ag spraying and firefighting flight instruction.
AMSAFE Air Bag System Approved
Also recently FAA-approved – and now available on all Air Tractor models – is the AMSAFE Aviation Inflatable Restraint (AAIR) airbag system. Developed jointly by Air Tractor and AMSAFE, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona, the air bag restraint system is now standard on all current production Air Tractor aircraft and available as a kit for retro-fitting older aircraft. Based on early orders and customer feedback, Air Tractor is confident that the ag industry has been ready and waiting for this important new safety enhancement.
The AMSAFE airbag system consists of two gas inflators, an electronics module (with batteries and crash sensor electronics) and seat-mounted straps. When sensors detect a major crash event the system deploys the airbags within milliseconds to protect the pilot's head and torso - greatly reducing neck, head and facial injuries.
New Laser Altimeter
Also set to debut at NAAA 2009 is a new laser altimeter for Air Tractor aircraft. The new ultra-precise, non-visible laser altimeter will be an optional system on new production Air Tractor aircraft and also available as a retrofit kit for all Air Tractor models. Designed for mounting in existing Air Tractor wing inspection holes, the laser unit requires no airframe modifications. The laser altimeter unit is capable of accuracy to an incredible 1.2 inches and can be “zeroed” for landing gear height.
406 MHz ELT
Air Tractor is now offering the new 406 MHz Electronic Location Transmitter (ELT). The 406 MHz transmitter is optimized for satellite location accuracy and provides a better signal-to-noise ratio than current ELTs using the 121.50 and 243.00 MHz frequencies. Satellites can pinpoint the stronger 406 MHz signal within about 1.25 miles (2 kilometers). The 406 MHz ELT is FAA-approved, and will be an available option on new production Air Tractors and also can be retrofitted on older aircraft.
AT-802 Has 11,700 Hour Wing Spar Safe Life
Air Tractor's AT-802, it has been announced, is now FAA-approved with an 11,700-hour wing spar safe life – with no need for periodic inspections. The FAA-certification is substantiated by data from full-scale stress tests and loads simulating actual ag operations.
Air Tractor's on-going wing fatigue safe life test program is the only one of its kind in the ag aviation industry, and is one element of Air Tractor's long-standing Safety System Triad™ (SST) regimen, which employs a multi-phase strategy for fatigue management similar to that practiced in other sectors of aviation. “As our wing fatigue testing program has progressed, operators have seen that their Air Tractor aircraft meet a high standard of airworthiness,” says Jim Hirsch, V.P. of Engineering at Air Tractor.
“We have learned a lot since our first fatigue testing program began more than 15 years ago,” notes Hirsch. “We’ve made changes to the center splice design and manufacturing process which we’ve found to improve the fatigue characteristics of the wings. One of these improvements is cold-working of the outboard bolt holes.”
“Pilot safety and protection has been a key priority in Air Tractor aircraft design since Leland Snow built the first Air Tractor. Our full-scale fatigue testing program is another way we are working to provide a higher level of confidence for our customers,” says Hirsch.
-67F Turboprop Now Approved For AT-802
Another major Air Tractor announcement is FAA-certification of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67F for use AT-802 model aircraft. The -67F engine option should be particularly well received among single engine air tanker operators with interest in the float-equipped amphibious AT-802F Fire Boss. The additional horsepower available with the -67F engine will provide better overall performance and faster climb rates, not only for aerial firefighting, but for ag operations, as well.
In its standard configuration the AT-802 is powered by a PT6A-67AG turboprop that develops 1,350 SHP. The optional PT6A-67F turboprop delivers a robust 1,600 SHP for Fire Boss. However, the engine will be de-rated to 1,424 SHP, the certificated horsepower limit of the AT-802, for the land-based aircraft.
Thicker, Stronger Windshield
A new Air Tractor windshield center plate has also received FAA certification for use in those Air Tractor models with 3-piece windshield designs. The new glass, acrylic and epoxy design is stronger and thicker to provide even greater strike protection for pilots. Service Letter #276 provides retrofit instructions.