Air Tractor Europe introduces dual cockpit AT-802A Fire Boss

In March 2010 Air Tractor Europe S.L., based in Valencia, Spain, became the first European operator of the dual cockpit Air Tractor AT-802A Fire Boss that is the first EASA-certified dual-cockpit Fire Boss. While the single cockpit Fire Boss has been in service since 2003, its dual cockpit version has emerged just recently as a direct result of the growing need for a dedicated trainer that will support the ongoing global operations of the 50+ Fire Boss fleet.
Originally, the aircraft was built in 2009 as a standard dual cockpit AT-802A. It was transfered to Spain where Valencia-based Avialsa T-35 S.L. transformed it into an amphibian Fire Boss. Avialsa T-35 S.L. is an operator of 25+ AT802s for firefighting and JAR-145 maintenance. It is a sister company of Air Tractor Europe S.L. Avialsa T-35 S.L. coordinated with Air Tractor and the Minnesota-based float producer Wipaire, Inc. to produce the dual cockpit amphibian.
These companies developed the first dual cockpit Fire Boss from a 2004 dual cockpit AT-802. That aircraft has been certified by the FAA and is now operational in the U.S. as a training aircraft with Fire Boss, LLC, a sister company to Wipaire, Inc. This aircraft has also been leased to the Appleton, Minnesota-based, privately owned company Aero Spray, Inc. for aerial firefighting contracts with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Washington and Minnesota Departments of Natural Resources.
The second dual cockpit Fire Boss produced went to Tasmania-based R&M in 2009. It has been combating forest fires throughout Australia. R&M’s aircraft is not equipped with dual controls or a rear instrument panel and is not used for training. The Avialsa dual cockpit AT-802A Fire Boss is the third aircraft of that type in operation worldwide.
Avialsa’s dual cockpit AT-802A Fire Boss is equipped with full dual-control cockpits with front and rear instrument panels. This makes the aircraft an exceptional training platform for all current and future European Fire Boss pilots. Apart from necessary modifications to the wings and tail section, the aircraft’s factory-installed 1,350 SHP P&WC PT6A-67AG engine was replaced with a more powerful 1,600 SHP PT6A-67F engine.
This change was implemented because the -67 powered Fire Boss has often been considered underpowered, especially when operating in high-density altitude conditions where fires are often fought. The introduction of the -67F engine is a good match for the big amphibian Fire Boss with the extra power ensuring a significant reduction in scooping distances, as well as an increase in climb rates and cruise speed.
The aircraft is equipped with 1,438-liter (380-U.S. gallon) fuel tanks that provide for a safe four-hour fuel range. However, the dual cockpit Fire Boss has one similarity with all single cockpit Fire Boss aircraft, its all-aluminum Wipaire Model 10,000 series amphibious water scooping floats, which incorporate retractable landing gear.
Apart from Air Tractor Europe S.L. and Avialsa T-35 S.L. pilots, the honor to test fly the brand-new dual cockpit AT-802 Fire Boss was given to the Croatian Air Force that already operates a fleet of six AT-802s for firefighting (one land-based and four amphibian single cockpit AT-802As and one land-based dual cockpit AT-802A Fire Boss).
April 27, 2010 Captain Milan Dosen, an experienced Croatian pilot and commander of the Zadar/Zemunik-based Air Tractor unit, flew the dual cockpit Fire Boss in Valencia. Following his backseat flight, he reported the aircraft fulfilled entirely his expectations with inflight performance and especially with the training capabilities it offered.
Captain Dosen was also impressed by the excellent front and side visibility from the backseat for the pilot/instructor and by the well-equipped rear instrument panel.
Reflecting state-of-the-art technology in computerized fire gate controls, the AT-802 is an ideal firefighting aircraft with the ability arrive at fires quickly and the maneuverability to put them out accurately and efficiently. The well-known reliability of its P&WC PT6A turboprop engine, low maintenance and operating costs, ruggedness and safety features have made it increasingly popular among Mediterranean and Balkan countries that have faced waves of disastrous wildfires over the previous years. Largely in part to the Spanish company Air Tractor Europe S.L. and its salesman, Hugo Arceo, the Air Tractor AT-802 has become a synonym for the best-buy aerial firefighting asset in the Balkans.
Already equipped with a fleet of four single cockpit Fire Boss aircraft and with only one land-based dual cockpit AT-802 available for training new pilots, the Republic of Croatia is an AT-802 user that could be very much interested in introducing the dual cockpit Fire Boss into service.
Serious interest in the dual cockpit AT-802 Fire Boss is also expected from Macedonia and Montenegro, countries that are operating small fleets of single cockpit Fire Boss amphibians and are lacking in dual cockpit training capabilities for those planes.
Other potential interests for the AT-802 Fire Boss is expected to come from Cyprus that has already purchased one land-based AT-802 in 2009. Other Balkan countries, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, have all shown increased interest in the AT-802 firefighting aircraft.

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