Home-International5 to 55, Canada's Yorkton Aircraft Service

5 to 55, Canada’s Yorkton Aircraft Service

Canada’s aerial application industry is relatively small compared to the United States. There are an estimated 275 ag planes (this does not include firefighting aircraft) and approximately 5% arable land. Even with these lesser numbers, the Canadian aerial application industry has momentum.

For years, Canadian ag operators were primarily utilized as a 911 service, and a significant portion of the industry still battles this. Early turbine operators either served potato growers who provided regular work or were forestry contractors. The rest of the industry flew piston aircraft and tried to increase their business base to get into a turbine. Canadians pay a premium for aircraft thanks to a volatile currency exchange. Over the last 12 years, the exchange rate has been at par and as high as $1.50 per U.S. dollar. In addition to the initial cost, Canadian aviation regulations are stricter than FAA regulations, such as fixed TBOs and no field approvals.

Over the last few years, the Canadian eastern provinces called on western Canadian aerial application planes to protect forest lands. This has helped several operators upgrade to turbines or expand their turbo fleet. Farm sizes are increasing, and agricultural aircraft have proven their value in Canadian agriculture. As Allan Denesowych always emphasizes, “It’s the results that matter.”

In 2012, five turbine-powered Thrushes called Canada home. By the end of July 2023, that number had increased to 55! When Yorkton Aircraft Service embarked on their journey to become a Thrush Dealer in 2012, they set out “to build a Thrush Nation, one plane at a time.” To date, Yorkton Aircraft Service has sold 27 aircraft, and another 23 Thrush have made their way into the country, owned by about 20 operators.

Yorkton Aircraft is entering its 35th year in business, specializing in ag maintenance and support. Downtime is expensive, and the YAS staff work hard to live by their “we’re there to keep you in the air” motto. The company focuses on growing its maintenance services and staying on top of leading products to help operators grow their companies.

There have also been other changes in the Canadian ag industry. “As a support company, I’ve noticed the aerial application industry has made two significant shifts,’ comments Cheryl Denesowych. “One is a definite increase in professionalism fostered by education and training, which is great for attracting and supporting new pilots, and two, a stop to the idea that we need to prove aerial application is better than ground application. Aerial application is another tool in the farmer’s toolbox with distinct advantages. By focusing on the advantages, the Canadian ag community is getting the message, especially as farms increase in size. Many agricultural aviation operators are farmers, and more and more large farm operators are considering owning their aircraft.”

Transport Canada type certified the new P2 and P2+ single cockpit model Thrush this spring, and Yorkton Aircraft Services welcomed Canada’s first P2 this June. Owned by a farm family in southern Saskatchewan, this is the third plane in their fleet, which includes a Turbine Brave and Pawnee. Adding a larger capacity Thrush was in their future, but a visit to purchase a new ground rig last fall got them to consider adding the plane sooner. They sat back and considered all they knew: the airplane is an effective tool (they had results from the other planes), and the aircraft investment does not depreciate as soon as it comes off the lot.

Yorkton Aircraft Service is still gathering data, but the P2 shows incredible operating numbers on the lighter aerodynamic airframe, the reliable PT6A-34AG, and the 4-blade prop. With the P2 and the P2+, Thrush will have two of the three top industry options in the 500-gallon product lines. The 710 product line is now receiving factory attention, and Yorkton Aircraft is confident it will be the next big story.

Yorkton Aircraft believes in the Thrush aircraft (actually, YAS chose a Thrush to be front and center of their logo in 1989). Rumors aside about the factory, Yorkton Aircraft Service maintains that the Thrush product has never been the problem. Distractions from the main product line caused pain in the past.   Stabilizing an off-course company, learning the industry, and dealing with all the other world distractions of the past three years has been chaotic for the new ownership group. The learning curve is steep, but Yorkton Aircraft Service recognizes the Thrush factory commitment runs deeper. Mark McDonald, Thrush CEO and President, comments, “Thrush is excited about continuing to expand our presence around the world, the TC transfer to Canada is just the latest example.  With dealers like Yorkton and great customers worldwide, we’re looking forward to growing the fleet size, improving our products, and increasing customer service levels.”

There is more to come from Thrush and Yorkton Aircraft. In 2022, Yorkton Aircraft expanded its shop space and installed a wider door. The additional workspace filled with natural light significantly upgraded their working environment. Allan has worked for 45 years in this hangar. “We love this WW2 hangar,” says Allan. “It’s continued to serve aviation over the years. It’s a legacy building that helped us build a 35-year-old company. Maybe now we are a legacy, too.”

Yorkton Aircraft Service’s product support delivery model is unique. They don’t own a fleet of spray planes. Al hung up his crop-spraying helmet in 1989 to focus solely on support. It was necessary to start a business, but the bigger focus was that the company didn’t want to compete against its clientele.

As YAS grew, they took on more and more product lines. Sticking to the idea of only selling what they can support, Yorkton Aircraft represents Transland, Satloc, Micronair, Garmin, Agrinautics, the MVP folks, Lane Brakes, Emco Wheaton, GE, ATS and Micro V.G.s, Turbine Conversions, Start Pac and Evo Helmets, and a few others. Over 35 years, they have formed incredible working relationships with many of the industry’s other suppliers.

This array of support takes a very dedicated team. Yorkton Aircraft Service has trained several staff over the years. However, recruitment to work on ag planes is getting more difficult for the Canadian company. A mechanic new to ag is always surprised by the pace, the array of skills required beyond typical aircraft maintenance, and often constant discussion about costs. Yorkton Aircraft sees many of these types leave ag maintenance and return to more typical aircraft maintenance shops. “The mechanics who stick with ag in Canada and the U.S. are unique and skilled,” explains Tanner Denesowych, former ag pilot who has come home to work at Yorkton Aircraft.

Yorkton Aircraft Service’s shop supports General Aviation as well. They added an Avionics department and have some very exciting projects on the go in this area. Yorkton has also recognized a need for a more formal broker program in the used aircraft buy and sell market, and this is an active project, too.   Yorkton Aircraft Service’s Thrush Sales and Support Program is also ready to assist USA operators. They help Americans a fair bit and can sell them a new Thrush or a used aircraft.

Maybe you have met Yorkton Aircraft’s safety messaging Andy character on their social media channels. Kaci Denesowych, Marketing Director at Yorkton, explains, “I made Andy. We made him a safety character. It’s our way of telling ag operators we care about them. Maybe an Andy reminder can make a difference in your day or at least put a smile on your face. Be like Andy!”

Cheryl sums it up by saying, “I’d say our best days here are when we help an operator solve a problem, share our knowledge, get an airplane back in the air; Andy gets a like. We look back at many we know who started as one or two-plane operations and have grown much larger. They started with us; they may have moved on, but in my heart, I know we helped them and the Ag industry grow.”





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