The first Air Tractor 502XP to operate in Ecuador was delivered to its new owner, Agrolineas del Pacifico S.A. (APACSA) located at Machala, in El Oro province. The airplane arrived January 6, 2022 at José Joaquín De Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil after a 2,800-mile ferry flight from Air Tractor. The sale was developed by Juan Phillips, a representative of Air Tractor dealer AgSur Aviones.
Oro Banana S.A. specializes in the commercialization of bananas, and Agrolineas del Pacifico S.A. is a subsidiary of Oro Banana S.A. The family-owned and operated business was founded in 1970. OBSA is the parent company of a vertically integrated corporate structure whose subsidiaries handle the production, packaging, and transportation of the bananas from the farm to the port. The group consists of farms and associated producers cultivating roughly 5,000 hectares of bananas in the Ecuador El Oro, Guayas, and Los Rios regions. Currently, OBSA ships approximately 120,000 boxes of bananas per week.
APACSA is a subsidiary of OBSA, and its primary business activity is the aerial application of agricultural pesticides on the group’s plantations. With a dedicated fleet of aircraft and experienced pilots, APACSA is tasked with the timely application of pesticides to control diseases and pests that reduce the productive yield of the plantations. The primary season when APACSA actively sprays is October through March. High temperatures and frequent rain increase the incidence and prevalence of Black Sigatoka fungus. This leaf spot disease causes significant reductions in leaf area, and can inflict crop losses of 50 percent or more, as well as causing premature ripening, which is a severe defect in exported fruit. During this 6-month timespan, APACSA typically sprays seven to ten thousand hectares per week.
At the suggestion of Juan Phillips, President of Oro Banana S.A. Jorge Alex Serrano, OBSA Finance Manager Jose Moran, and APACSA General Manager Edgar Eduardo Cordova Serrano visited the Air Tractor factory in Olney, Texas on August 12, 2021. Along with Juan Phillips, they toured the manufacturing facilities. At the Plant 1 fuselage welding station they saw their airplane, serial no. AT-502A-3321, in the early stages of assembly. They met with Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch, the Air Tractor finance team and Chief Test Pilot Mike Rhodes.
Jorge Alex was impressed with the facilities and personnel. “Air Tractor is quite obviously a well-established and capable company, with extensive experience in its products,” he observed. He noted that APACSA operates two 20-year old PZL 106 Kruk aircraft and a Thrush 510P. “Our purchase of the 502XP enables us to retire one of the Kruk airplanes while increasing our aerial application capabilities. The 502XP power, price, efficiency and safety provides the best value for us. The plan is to purchase a second 502XP,” he added.
Since its debut in 2016, Hirsch reports that 121 502XP airplanes have been built. For many operators, the 502XP provides an extra margin of power to boost productivity when high density altitude challenges aircraft performance. All of the 502XP’s attributes contribute to faster ferry times, more acres covered in less time, and reduced pilot fatigue on long, hot days.
The 502XP is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-140AG turbine engine. The engine is paired with a 4-blade Hartzell propeller and produces 867 shaft horsepower, an increase of 117 SHP over the PT6A-34AG. “Pilots can take off with a full load all day, every day.”
Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch is also looking forward to the future relationship. “We are thrilled to have the first 502XP in Ecuador. All of us at Air Tractor and at AgSur Aviones will provide the product support to help APACSA with its long-term plans for growth and increased productivity. The AT-502XP is an excellent fit for the growing conditions in Ecuador and the demands of their operation,” he said.
OBSA is a supplier to well known multinational distributors such as Del Monte and Chiquita. The company has a global reach spanning five continents through direct and indirect exports. All plantations under the OBSA umbrella currently have or are in the process of obtaining the international Global GAP certification, which is widely recognized as a standard for demonstrating food safety and sustainable agriculture.