20 years ago – AT-802 Used in Fire Suppression

OLNEY, TX – Two Air Tractor aircraft recently received Type Approval from Transport Canada, the governing aviation organization for the Canadian provinces.
The Type Approval was for two of the manufacturer’s largest capacity aircraft: the 800-gallon, dual cockpit AT-802 and the single-seat AT-802A. Being Type Approved allows these aircraft to be utilized for fire suppression work throughout Canada.
As a result of this development, Forest Protection, Ltd (FPL) has leased an AT-802 for a 30-day period, during which time it will assist in fire protection work in the province of New Brunswick. FPL was formed in 1952 as a joint effort between the provincial government and the forest products industry to protect New Brunswick’s vast and valuable woodlands.
“The province of New Brunswick is Canada’s most heavily forested, with the timber products industry playing an important role in the region’s economy,” said FPL general manager David Davies. “We undertake fire fighting and spruce budworm insecticide spraying under contract to the province. We’re leasing the Air Tractor AT-802 to supplement our fleet of TBM Avengers in fire suppression work this season, and to evaluate its performance as a potential replacement for the TBM’s in future years.”
The Avenger is a powerful World War II era bomber that, in their prime, were the world’s premier torpedo bombers. Mustered out of service in favor of more modern bombers, Avengers went on to successful civilian careers in fire fighting and aerial spraying. FPL currently operates 12 of these aircraft: six as dedicated firebombers, one spare firebomber, and five spray aircraft.
“We’ve been extremely happy with the performance of the Avengers,” explained FPL chief pilot John Lavigne. “But we’re also looking toward the future, when parts will become harder to find for these grand old ladies.” “Back in 1992, we undertook an in-depth study of possible Avenger successors, and determined that a turbine powered aircraft like the AT-802 would suit our needs,” Lavigne continued. “So we’re very pleased that the aircraft has now been Type Approved by Transport Canada and that we’ll be able to use the aircraft in our extensive fire suppression work.”
Introduced in 1993, the Air Tractor AT-802 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 of 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 802’s 800-gallon hopper load can do the work of 1600 or more gallons from a conventional gate design.”
Powered by the large and dependable P&W PT6A-67AG 1350 SHP engine, the AT-802 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 802 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 at production facilities in Olney, Texas. For information on the AT-802 air tanker, or the Air Tractor models, or for the name of the nearest authorized dealer, operators should contact Air Tractor, Inc. at 817-564-5616. Photo John Lavigne, FPL chief pilot, prepares to take delivery of the leased AT-802 at the Air Tractor factory in Olney, TX. FPL will utilize the 802 for fire suppression.

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