The popular Air Tractor 502XP continues its global reach by taking to the skies above New Zealand, thanks to ag operator Super Air Ltd.
John Elliot, manager of Super Air Ltd. in Hamilton, New Zealand, took possession of the 502XP (SN 502A-3149) in late 2019. Following the addition of variable rate spray equipment, it has joined the company’s fleet of two Air Tractor AT-502B’s.
“Already owning two AT-502B’s, we know that in most situations in New Zealand the Air Tractor airplanes can do the job in a tough environment with short, irregularly formed airstrips—the vast majority of which are not paved,” Elliot said.
When working in these rugged conditions, responsive, reliable dealer support is vital to keep your plane running.
“The Air Tractor product is supported by a great dealer network for parts,” Elliot said. “This sets it apart in an industry where time is money. The Air Tractors work in well with our Cresco airplanes, and Air Tractor’s options on size and configuration allow us to fit the right type and set up of Air Tractors to each regional environment we operate in.”
Elliot reports the 500 series aircraft are well suited for the types of aerial application work conducted in New Zealand, which is primarily aerial application of superphosphate, New Zealand’s most widely used pastureland fertilizer. He also notes that the Air Tractor is well equipped from a safety point of view, and the aircraft is well supported by Australian dealer, Field Air. Stepping up to the XP simply means taking something that has proven itself to the next level.
“Super Air Ltd. is owned by a large corporation (Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd. Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, New Zealand), and safety is paramount to our operations,” Elliot explains. “Having a solid frame around the pilot with the fertilizer positioned forward of the pilot rather than behind all point to a far better outcome for the pilot in the event of an accident.”
Field Air, the authorized Air Tractor dealer for Australasia and Asia-Pacific regions, imported the 502XP into Australia for assembly and initial modifications that include a Transland Wingman system. The airplane was initially registered as VH-XPN for the ferry flight to New Zealand. After arrival in New Zealand in August 2019, the airplane’s registration was changed to ZK-SXP for its new owner Super Air Ltd.
The very first Air Tractor to fly in New Zealand was 25 years ago as a demonstration airplane. It was serial no. 502B-0265 and was flown for a time in the country by Field Air pilot John McDowell during 1994. However, the first Air Tractor to be owned and operated in New Zealand was SN 402B-0990 ZK-SAT. It was delivered in 1995 to Don Hart of Skyfarmers Aviation Ltd. in Ashburton, New Zealand and is currently still owned and operated by Duncan Hart, Don’s son.
Air Tractor president, Jim Hirsch says, “We’re thrilled that ag operators around the globe are seeing that the 502XP fits their operation. Since the plane went into production in 2016, we’ve delivered them in the U.S., Canada, South America, Africa, Australia, and now New Zealand.”
“Demand for the XP has steadily grown, and by the end of 2019, we had delivered more than 70 of them,” says Hirsch. “We expect demand for the 502XP will be strong again in 2020,” he adds.
The 502XP, with its PT6A-140AG engine, boasts 867 horsepower to haul a full load even on the hottest days. It’s a productive balance of an advanced airframe and engine that provides speed, capacity, and productivity in extreme conditions. With the 502XP, operators can finish more acres in less time.