Milestone aircraft delivered to GMS Agronegócios in Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Compiled by Graham Lavender with Contributions by Marcos Paulino and Air Tractor.
It was 1989 when Leland Snow began designing a large-capacity, single-engine airplane specifically for aerial firefighting. He believed it would have a positive impact on that industry. After more than two years of design, modification, certification and manufacture, the first production single-seat AT-802A air tanker rolled out the doors of Plant 3 in 1993 into the eager hands of the late Chuck Kemper, then owner of Queen Bee Air Specialties in Rigby, Idaho.
Sam Kilpatrick, who worked on the prototype and helped build the early 802s, recalls, “I don’t know that anybody really knew how popular it would become. If we built one 802 in a month or two, we thought we were really doing something, you know? And gosh, now we do it in just a matter of days.”
The AT-502B was the company’s largest and best-selling airplane until the AT-802 project began. The design and production of the first 802s was a whole new order of scale. Craig Cowan, who helped build the first 802s remembers, “The tail was so tall we weren’t sure if the tail would fit beneath the door of Building Three. That was a concern.”
WD Middaugh laughs about it now, “We thought we’d have to put a notch in the door to get it out. The 802 was like a monster compared to what we’d been building,” Roy Jones added, “The canopy was so tall with landing gear on, we had to pick up the tail end of the airplane and then set it back down after it got past the door.”
It wasn’t long before Air Tractor produced the single-seat AT-802A for aerial spraying. As an 800-gallon (3,028-liter) ag plane, its popularity soared with aerial applicators. By 2011, 400 AT-802A airplanes had left Olney, Texas for work around the world. In 2019, serial number 802A-800 went to its new home in Roe, Arkansas. And in 2020, serial number 802A-900 joined the fleet of Western Australia’s largest ag operator, Dunn Aviation.
AeroGlobo Aeronaves, headquartered in Botucatu, SP Brazil, has represented Texas-based Air Tractor Dealer Lane Aviation and Air Tractor in Brazil since 2013. AeroGlobo, led by Fabiano Cunha Zacarreli, became South America’s first exclusive Air Tractor representative through a partnership with Lane Aviation.
Since representing Air Tractor in Brazil and South America AeroGlobo has accomplished many milestone aircraft deliveries. In 2013, AeroGlobo delivered the 3,000th Air Tractor to AMAGGI, also in Mato Grosso. Mato Grosso is Brazil’s center for agriculture. In 2020, AeroGlobo celebrated 200 Air Tractors sold and delivered in South America, and now they celebrate another milestone: delivering AT-802 serial number 1,000 to GMS Agronegócios.
The AeroGlobo headquarters in Botucatu houses a South American training center certified by Air Tractor that more than 300 pilots have attended. The company is also certified by FlightSafety International, authorized by P&WC, as its training center, having carried out training for nearly 500 aviation professionals worldwide on the PT6 engine. It also has three partner maintenance centers – ABA, located in Barreiras (BA), SOMA, located in Primavera do Leste (MT), and TANGARÁ, in Orlândia (SP).
Serial Number 1000 was sold to the Moacir Smaniotto Group (GMS), which has been farming in Mato Grosso for over 40 years, covering the cities of Sorriso, Lucas do Rio Verde and Nova Mutum. With its four highly productive farms and two large warehouses, GMS has massive investments in cutting-edge technology both in the field and after harvest, resulting in improved productivity crop after crop. With more than 200 employees, their activities are guided by sustainability, combining environmental preservation, strict financial control and social action with workers and the communities where it operates.
The family-owned farming business is located in Sorriso, Mato Grosso, Brazil. In a typical year, GMS farms 44,700 hectares (110,456 acres) planted in soybeans, corn and cotton. Their new AT-802A joins another Air Tractor 502XP purchased in 2019.
“Agricultural aviation in our company is recent. We have been preparing for the last few years to add additional aircraft by learning everything we can about the industry and ensuring we have the necessary infrastructure to continue with this very effective tool,” explained Fernando Smaniotto, who directs GMS alongside his mother, Cirlei, and his brothers Júnior and Ana Paula.
Serial Number 1000 AT-802’s unique paint scheme is green and blue. Combined with the Air Tractor yellow background, these stripes form the colors of the Brazilian flag, another distinction from Air Tractor to the rapidly growing Brazilian ag aviation market.
Before the delivery flight to Brazil, a luncheon was held at the Air Tractor factory in Olney, TX. Natanael Vaz and Anthony Rossi of Pratt & Whitney Canada presented Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch with a plaque commemorating the 1000th AT-802.
“We’ve come a long way with the 802 series,” remarked Hirsch.. “In the early 1990s, when the very first 802s were built, our founder Leland Snow looked at the airplane and offhandedly remarked, ‘We’ll probably build 10 or 12 of these.’ Well, Leland would be really pleased about its worldwide distribution and success today.”
“I remember stamping the first manufacturer’s placard to go on the airplane,” recalls David Cowen, who was the AT-802 conformity inspector. “Keith Boyd, Leland’s head engineer at the time, looked at me and asked, ‘Do you think we’ll ever build a thousand of these?’ I said
‘Let’s just go ahead and stamp three zeros in front of numeral 1.’ And 30 years later, just look at us now.