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Pacific Aerospace Delivers NewTopdresser

News release
For immediate release

October 21 2005

Pacific Aerospace Delivers World's Newest Topdresser

New Zealand's Pacific Aerospace Corporation (PAC) has delivered the world's newest topdressing aircraft.

The first agricultural version of the 750 XL, under development for a year at PAC's Hamilton plant, has been delivered today to the Taumaranui Aerial Co-operative – which has backed the original concept of the aircraft and PAC's ability to deliver.

The new topdresser will deliver greater loads of high analysis fertilisers (like urea) at lower costs and higher speed than other topdressers.

It can also double as a fire bomber in New Zealand and overseas markets.

The new aircraft builds on PAC's 52-year history in agricultural aircraft design, starting with the Fletcher in the 1950s and then the Cresco.

PAC Managing Director Brian Hare says the aircraft, which sells for about NZ$1.8 million, will also appeal because, when later sold, it can be converted for use as a commuter, freight or sky diving aircraft.

And PAC will for the first time offer buyers finance, and continue accepting aircraft trade-ins.

Hare says: "The benefits achieved as a result of the original design of the PAC 750 XL, under chief designer Jaap Authier, were of such significance that we saw the potential for an agricultural role for the aircraft. That design and some special test flying parameters we did before the development began, gave me the confidence to proceed. The result exceeds the expectation."

He says the new plane will deliver significant market advantages to topdressing operators. Fire bombing capacity is also a "very big deal" in some overseas target markets, including Australia, Canada, the UK and Europe.

It's fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 750hp engine and 150-hour servicing intervals also provide major advantages over other topdressers.

The 750 XL topdresser also has on-board weighing and satellite navigation systems and a recording process. A print out can be produced when a fertiliser run is finished. PAC is also now working on a new GPS-controlled fertiliser application system.

This involves infrared surveying of the condition of the paddocks to determine how much fertiliser is to be applied to each to achieve even growth, then entering this information into an onboard computer. Using GPS, the system will automatically control the hopper aperture, applying the right amount to each area in each paddock

PAC believes this will be a New Zealand first when the development is final, and is also extremely important environmentally.

"There's a significant upside to having proof of where and when fertiliser or sprays are applied," Hare says.

Taumarunui Aerial Co-operative's executive chairman, Rob Gower, says the new topdresser represents "another giant leap forward in agricultural aircraft design - and we've already ordered a second one."

The co-operative of 400 King Country farmers, with an additional 50 non-member clients, spreads 70,000 tonnes of fertiliser a year with two Crescos. Both will be replaced with 750 XLs.

Gower says with increasing use of high volume high-analysis fertilisers, and farmers now ordering topdressing up to six times a year – to ensure maximum pasture growth and stock condition at critical times, the 750 XL will steal major market advantages because of its speed and carrying capacity. It will also allow the co-operative to reduce its two pilots' total flying hours each year.

He expects it will fly 3 to 5 knots faster than the Cresco on average and carry twice the urea load for the same or less fuel cost.

The co-operative viewed the computerised load weighing and recording system as a major safety feature: "Now the pilot knows exactly what he's got on board.

"The new aircraft has distinct advantages for the industry and I don't think we've quite realised yet how big these will be."

PAC has so far delivered 20 750XL's, 14 in the aircraft's sky diving configuration.

The latest went in the first week of October to Sydney Sky Divers. Director Phil Onis says it's the second 750 XL added to the company's fleet and he expects the aircraft will help his firm – which has a fleet of eight aircraft flying 4000 hours and carrying 10,000 tandem skydivers a year – to win its bid to carry 600 to 800 skydivers in Australia's National Skydiving Championships at Christmas 2006.

Of the fire-bombing features of the new 750 XL topdresser, Onis agrees it could play a big part in the plane's success: "That's huge in Australia. It's unbelievable how big it's getting."


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