OLNEY, TX—Further attesting to its capabilities as a “worldclass” firefighter, the first Air Tractor AT-802F has been delivered to the Croatian government.
The aircraft will be used for patrolling and initial attack duties along the country’s heavily-forested coastal areas just in time for the 1997 fire season, which usually runs from June through September. Plans include delivery of a second 802F for the 1998 season. Janko Zlataric, president of authorized Air Tractor dealer MMCS in Augsburg, Germany, handled the sale and delivery of the two-seat, 800-gallon turbine powered aircraft. “We believe this will be the first of many Air Tractors working in Croatia,” said Zlataric. “The Croat government, which previously has been utilizing Canadair CL-215 and CL-415 firebombers, was very impressed with the capabilities of the plane, along with its significantly-lower operating costs compared to the larger air tankers.”
The aircraft includes the very latest electronic equipment, including a GPS system and transponder. Zlataric, along with a government engineer for technology from the Croatian government, felt strongly that this type of equipment must be included on this first Air Tractor, and then be standard on all future aircraft purchases to help standardize the country’s firefighting operations.
Zlataric, who had been working with the Croats for several years, is no stranger to the firefighting capabilities of the Air Tractor. He has been utilizing the 500-gallon AT-502 the past two years for firefighting work throughout the region.
This past spring, he flew four members of the Croat government, including the Deputy Minister of the Interior, to the Spanish firefighting operation of Avialsa, another Air Tractor dealer who operates several AT-802F aircraft under contract with the Spanish government. “It just so happened that during the course of demonstrating the AT-802F, the person who holds the same job in the Spanish government as the Croatian Deputy Minister was in attendance,” explained Zlataric.
“So they had a good opportunity to talk with each other about problems and concerns they both experience in their respective countries, and how the Air Tractor could best meet those requirements. Needless to say, I think this was an important factor in the Croats choosing the Air Tractor.”
Zlataric, two pilots and a mechanic from his operation in Germany flew to Olney, Texas to pick up the Air Tractor in late May. After a four-day ferry trip from Texas to Croatia, the 802F will begin patrolling the northern quadrant of the country along the Adriatic Sea.
Based out of the city of Pula, the 802F will work with the three Canadair aircraft still operated by the Croatians, with the larger fire-bombers working in the central part of the country’s coastline. Croatia has future plans to greatly expand the number of remote fire bases throughout the country, taking existing airfields and converting them to serve the needs of firefighting crews.
Zlataric sees a promising future for the Air Tractor in firefighting operations throughout the region. “There are many countries who could benefit from the Air Tractor’s firefighting capabilities, including Italy, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and many others,” said Zlataric. “I have no doubt that once these countries have a chance to see how well the AT-802F works in Croatia, they will follow suit and begin including the Air Tractor in their firefighting air forces.”
Introduced in 1993, the Air Tractor AT-802F was America’s first aircraft designed from the ground up to fight fires. “The aircraft employs a level of technology in the fire gate controls not found in any other aircraft used for this purpose,” explained Air Tractor president Leland Snow. “The pilot may select the coverage level, amount or retardant to be dropped, make his ground speed correction and then depend on the aircraft computer to make continuous dump door adjustments to provide an even flow rate through the doors…which results in even coverage on the ground.”
“An accelerometer senses turbulence or airplane pitch accelerations and adjusts the door opening accordingly,” Snow continued. “With these state-of-the-art controls, and the ability to accurately select coverage levels, the 802F’s 800-gallon hopper load can do the work of a larger tanker with a conventional gate design.”
Powered by the large and dependable P&W PT6A-67AG 1350 SHP engine, the AT-802F fully loaded has a rate of climb and cruise speed comparable to twin-engine ex-military tankers in this size range, but with the advantage of much lower maintenance and increased safety for the pilot.
The quiet, slow-turning prop allows the 802F to be based on small airports near towns and strategically located to potential burn areas. In business since 1974, Air Tractor, Inc. manufactures more aircraft for the agricultural aviation industry than any other company in the industry.
For more information on the 802F, or for the name of the nearest authorized Air Tractor dealer, operators should contact Air Tractor, Inc. at 940-564-5616.