Air Tractor – Built to serve and protect

I would not like to be a participant in an aircraft crash, but if I were forced to do so, I’d want to be riding in an Air Tractor.

Exhibit One: A healthy stream of comments, many by ag pilots, to my YouTube post about the landing crash of a militarized AT-802U variant in October 2010 have nothing but praise for the sturdiness of the type.

Exhibit Two: A just-posted NTSB preliminary report about a turbine AT-402 in Uvalde, Texas on 13 August, further illustrates the point.

It’s not real clear what happened, but the excitement started with the pilot messing with his on board GPS (most of us have never done that, right?…) while cruising along pretty low to the ground.

“As he attempted to troubleshoot the [GPS] problem, engine torque dropped momentarily, then returned to 1200 pounds,” the NTSB states. “Shortly thereafter, engine torque dropped again and the pilot decided to make a precautionary landing on a road.”  The FAA inspector later said he was unable to determine the reason for the drop in engine torque.

A typical story would have ended with the pilot landing in a field or on a road, but…

“While on final approach to the road, the pilot looked inside the cockpit momentarily and when he looked outside, he noticed a set of power lines crossing the road,” the NTSB continues. “He was able to avoid them.”
 
“The pilot then saw a second set of power lines and while manoeuvring to avoid them, inadvertently stalled the airplane. The right wing dropped, striking the power lines. The airplane spun around and impacted terrain in an inverted attitude.”

Despite stalling at low speed, which for an AT-402 is about 60mph, hitting wires and slamming into the ground INVERTED, the pilot walked away with no injuries. Amazing.

Here are pictures of the aircraft during recovery by AvClaims.

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