Slovenia Receives Second Air Tractor AT-802 Fire-Fighting Aircraft

The second Air Tractor AT-802 single-engine fire-fighting plane intended for the Slovenian Ministry of Defence subordinated Uprava Republike Slovenije za zaščito in reševanje (URSZR, Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for protection and rescue) landed Ljubljana/Brnik “Jože Pučnik” international airport on 18 May.

The twin-seat aircraft in a land-based configuration (with classical, tricycle-type landing gear) arrived in Slovenia with Spanish temporary registration EC-OCO (ex N7900R, c/n 802-1029) with a one-stop flight that began on the same morning at Viver airport in Spain and proceeded towards Slovenia with a single stop at Calvi/Sainte-Catherine airport on Corsica, France.

The 45-minute-long acceptance test flight for the EC-OCO was done on 20 June with ATE pilot in command and a Slovenian copilot in the back seat. Once in the Slovenian register, this aircraft will be registered as S5-BZT.

Slovenia’s first twin-seat AT-802 with classical tricycle-type landing gear wearing Spanish temporary registration EC-NZL (ex N85152, c/n 802-0990) arrived in Ljubljana on 9 May. Expectations are that the Slovenian registration of this aircraft would be SB-BZR.

The 4-strong fleet would be complete in March 2024 when two amphibian-configured single-seat AT-802A Fire Boss planes arrive in Slovenia. Meanwhile, the twin-seat planes will return to Spain where they will get floats installed before the end of October 2023, resulting in the change of their designation from AT-802 to AT-802 Fire Boss.

“Following the devastating Karst wildfire of July 2022, Slovenia committed to promptly build a dedicated aerial fire-fighting fleet that would rely on four brand-new 3,104-liter (800 US Gallon) capacity Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss planes,” Slovenian defense minister Marjan Šarec said on 17 April in Ljubljana during the ceremony for signing the Agreement for the acquisition of 4 Air Tractor planes from the Spanish, Viver-based company Air Tractor Europe (ATE).

The aircraft purchased by the MoD would operate under civilian (S5-) registration within a special aerial fire-fighting unit that would be established within URSZR. For the purpose of putting the unit in operational use, training of Slovenian pilots and related technical personnel would be organized by ATE that would help Slovenia to put its Air Tractors in use in the summer of 2023. While various airports across Slovenia would be used for the purpose, the unit’s home base is yet to be decided.

Slovenia’s program for the establishment of aerial firefighting capabilities has been approved at a government session held in Ljubljana on 30 January. A new dedicated national development project was launched then for the construction of aerial firefighting capabilities in the period 2023-2026 with a maximum of 6 small fire-fighting planes, 4 firm orders, and 2 options.

Being co-financed (85%) by the European cohesion policy funds for the period 2021-2027, the Slovenian project now focuses on the initial acquisition of 4 planes and establishing an OEM-backed training and logistical system that would allow URSZR planes to become part of the common aerial fire-fighting fleet of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (rescEU) that apart of protecting Slovenia will also help extinguishing wildfires within the EU as well as in other nations in need.

In case the option for the acquisition of additional two planes is implemented, Slovenia would further increase its Air Tractor fleet during or after 2025.

Over 1,000 Air Tractor AT-802 planes were built since 1992 and this aircraft is now a fire-fighting standard for most wildfires-prone countries. It was already bought and put in service with the governments and private operators in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Sweden, Israel, Cyprus, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

According to ATE, serious interest in purchasing the AT-802 plane has so far also been demonstrated by Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Aside from selling planes, ATE is also very active in leasing AT-802s and providing aerial fire-fighting services to various governments in Europe and beyond with record 50 ATE-owned/controlled AT-802 planes expected to operate this year in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.

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