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The History of And Types of Air Tractor Aircraft Powered by P&W Engines

By Eric R.

Air Tractor is a leading manufacturer of purpose-built aircraft for agricultural, firefighting and a variety of utility applications. From North, South and Central America, to Australia, Indonesia, and China to Spain, Italy, Croatia and Africa, Air Tractor aircraft can be found in more than 30 countries around the world and are supported by a global network of Air Tractor dealers.

Air Tractor Inc. is a United States aircraft manufacturer based in Olney, Texas. Leland Snow founded the company in 1978 in order to manufacture a new agricultural aircraft derived from the S-2B aircraft (designed by his previous company, Snow Aeronautical). Designated Model AT-300 Air Tractor, the new aircraft first flew in 1973. In 2004 the 2000th Air Tractor aircraft was delivered.

History of Air Tractor

Leland Snow began designing his first airplane, the S-1, in 1951. The 23-year-old Snow completed test flights with the S-1 in 1953. Snow’s S-1 flew dusting and spraying jobs in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and in Nicaragua until 1957. He followed-up the S-1 with the models S-2A and S-2B, which were built when Snow moved to production facilities in Olney, Texas in 1958.

In 1965, Leland Snow sold his company to Rockwell-Standard and was appointed a Vice President of the Aero Commander division. During this time, the Model S-2R was developed and named the Thrush. The first 100 Thrush aircraft were built at the Olney Division before the plant was closed and Thrush production moved to Georgia in 1970. More than 500 aircraft were produced under Snow Aeronautical Corporation and Rockwell-Standard in Olney.

Snow resigned from Rockwell and devoted the next two years designing the Air Tractor. Construction began in 1972 on the AT-300, which later became the AT-301. Air Tractor’s first turbine model, the AT-302, was introduced in 1977.

Sixteen years later, Air Tractor delivered its 1,100th airplane and soon began expanding the Olney plant for increased capacity. Today, Air Tractor produces a line of aircraft that includes 400, 500, 600, and 800-gallon capacity planes powered by Pratt & Whitney piston or turbine engines.

The Types of Air Tractor Models

Air Tractor AT-300: (1973) single-seat low-wing monoplane aerial application aircraft with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S3H1 Wasp radial engine.

Air Tractor AT-301: -300 variant with larger piston engine.

Air Tractor AT-302: -300 variant with turboprop engine.

Air Tractor AT-400: (1979) development of -300, with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine.

Air Tractor AT-401: -400 variant with greater wingspan powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-15 engine.

Air Tractor AT-402: -401 variant with a P&W PT6A-15AG engine. With the AT-402B, Air Tractor’s goal was to combine turbine power with affordability. You get both, and more. It’s quiet, powerful, and fun to fly, even at the end of a long day.

Air Tractor AT-501: (1986) development of -400 with larger fuselage and hopper, greater wingspan, and seat for an observer. Uses a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine.

Air Tractor AT-502: Single-seat version of -501 with a PT6A-15AG engine.

Air Tractor AT-502B: Introduced in 1987, the 502B is the world’s most popular Ag Plane…and for good reasons. For many ag operators, the AT-502B is the ideal combination of payload and performance. It’s got every airframe and engine advantage to put you ahead at day’s end. Powered by the  ‎P&W PT6A-34AG engine.

AT-502B : World’s Most Popular Ag Plane.

Air Tractor AT-503: Development of -501 with a P&W PT6A-15AG.

Air Tractor AT-503A: Dual-control trainer version of AT-503 with shorter AT-401 wings with a P&W PT6A-15AG.

Air Tractor AT-503T: Trainer variant of -503. Uses smaller wingspan

Air Tractor AT-504: The Air Tractor AT-504 is a spray plane and trainer that’s an excellent platform for aerial application instruction. Side-by-side cockpit seating and dual controls lets experienced pilots effectively train new turboprop pilots. Equipped with a Pratt & Whitney PT6-34AG engine, the AT-504 has working speeds equal to the AT-502B. Novice turboprop pilots experience similar flight performance when they move from the AT-504 to the AT-502B or other similar size turboprop ag planes. The AT-504 performs beautifully and is fun to fly. And like the rest of the Air Tractor line, it can be a real money maker.

AT-504 : Trainer and Breadwinner.

Air Tractor AT-602: (1995) Development of -503 with larger hopper and greater wingspan powered by the  Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6.

Air Tractor AT-802A: (1990) Development of -503 with larger hopper and greater wingspan, adapted for aerial firefighting. The AT-802 is the world’s largest single engine ag aircraft, and its popularity is legend in high production agriculture. Powered by the P&W PT6A-65AG.

Air Tractor AT-802U: The Air Tractor® AT-802U is an economical single engine turboprop aircraft designed for surveillance, precision strike, and rugged dirt strip utility missions. The AT-802U combines an 8,000-lb. (3,629 kg) payload and 10-hour ISR mission capability with the flexibility and responsiveness of a manned weapon system – for a fraction of the cost of unmanned aerial vehicle systems. Adapted for Surveillance and military operations.

An AT-802U Air Tractor. Photo courtesy of Aerofossile2012 thru Flickr

Air Tractor AT-1002: Developed from -802 with larger fuel and retardant tanks

What is your favorite Air Tractor model?

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