It’s common for a farmer to find extra employment for expensive equipment such as a seeding rig, sprayer or combine. But where are those moonlighting jobs for $1.47 million spray planes?
Prairie crop dusters sometimes find off-season work in the north spraying insects to protect forests, and one AT-802 owner in Saskatchewan found off-season work spraying locusts in North Africa. However, not all pilots will fly their spray plane across the Atlantic Ocean, especially without floats.
Here are four ideas for earning extra income with an AT-802, some practical and some not so much.
For the adrenaline junkie, how about a weaponized 802U?
It is a light bomber designed for surgical quick hit air-to-ground strikes and air-to-air defence when needed.
There are numerous firepower arrangements, but protective armour is first and foremost.
The plane features self-sealing fuel tanks and ballistic glass and plating.
According to the U.S. state department, AT-802U aircraft in Central America counter-drug operations have taken more than 200 bullet strikes in a single mission and returned to base with no harm to the pilots or on-board systems. Even with all armour in place, the 802U has a payload of 8,000 pounds plus enough fuel to fly 10-hour missions.
Firepower includes dual three-barrel .50 calibre Gatling guns, dual M260 7-tube rocket launchers and 500 lb. Mk-82 bombs. The plane can carry these, as well as other devices of the customer’s choice, with a maximum of 15 hard mounting points.
Unfortunately, farmers won’t be able to convert their 802 spray plane into a fighter/light bomber, but maybe low level piloting skills might lend themselves to contractor work over a bertha armyworm infestation.
The unique specifications require that each military aircraft be started from scratch. Air Tractor officials would not disclose a price.
The least glamorous job for an Air Tractor is teaching students how to fly spray planes.
The $1.5 million plane isn’t required for this task. In fact, the $993,500 side-by-side AT-504 trainer is better for teaching because it’s been designed from scratch to serve as a trainer when not spraying.
All other two-seat Air Tractors are built with fore and aft seating, making it difficult for the instructor to see what the student is doing with the controls.
The 504 requires no modification or special certification and no further costs.
The beauty of the 500-gallon 504 is that when it’s not busy spraying, all it takes is the addition of a student to turn it into a trainer.
The anticipated increase in demand for aerial applicators means specialized training will be in high demand.
As well, it gives students the advantage of starting off with a turbine rather than a radial piston engine.
FIGHT FOREST FIRES
Another income-generating upgrade is to add a fire gate system.
A basic Fire Boss on tires is US$1.98 million for the complete plane, which can then be outfitted for agricultural spraying.
A Fire Boss kit on a pair of Wipaire amphibious wheel floats can fill from a lake or solid ground, shown above. Price for wheel floats is another $1 million.
A Fire Boss on floats scoops the full 800 gallons in less than 15 seconds for a total touch-and-go turn-around of less than 30 seconds.
Full access to all water sources makes the plane more valuable to fire team accountants, thus increasing the pay cheques.
If you get a summer with no forest fires, the amphibious Fire Boss is available as a fore/aft two-seater, so take your sweetie fishing. With tons of cargo capacity, you’ll carry everything you need for a month of lake jumping: camping and fishing gear, lawn chairs, books, bacon and beer.
BULK DIESEL TANKER
Ice road trucking seasons are growing shorter, which creates an opportunity for liquid-hauling aircraft. As well, many northern runways can’t handle anything but small bush planes.
The Air Tractor-802 spray plane is equipped with heavy-duty landing gear and large liquid capacity, so it’s feasible to spray in summer and haul diesel fuel in winter, making this a viable extra-income option.
Conair in Abbotsford. B.C., will modify the 802 to hold 1,057 US gallons. It can retrofit an existing AT802 but prefers to start with a factory ordered plane, in which case its dual-purpose modification costs less than $1 million, including all certification and paperwork.
The plane keeps the original 1,600 horsepower Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65AG turbine and 800 gallon fibreglass hopper.
A special Conair-designed aluminum belly hopper is installed, providing the plane with a two-piece, independent upper and lower bulk tank system with individual loading and off-loading pumps.
Lightning protection and cold weather systems are also installed. Gross weight remains unchanged.