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Crop-dusting aircraft must have several important attributes. They should be able to operate well at low altitudes, be maneuverable and have a high load capacity. Because of these particular demands, several models have become prevalent within the industry. Most have been specially designed for agricultural use.
Rockwell Thrush Commander
The Rockwell Thrush Commander first flew in 1956 and is still in production. It has room for a pilot and a passenger, and can carry 1,514 litres of chemicals. It has been used by the US State Department for anti-narcotics spraying, but is generally used purely for agricultural crop spraying. It was designed by Leland Snow, himself an experienced agricultural pilot. It has a top speed of 122 knots and, fully loaded, can carry a total capacity of 6,000 lbs.
Grumman Ag Cat
The Grumman Ag Cat is an agricultural biplane that has been in production since 1959. It has a hopper capacity of 1,514 litres, a top speed of 128 knots and has room for a pilot only. It was the first aircraft built by a major aviation company for purely agricultural use. It has also been used as a stunt plane, as it is ideally suited for wing walking. Some pilots have converted the hopper space into a passenger seat.
Piper PA-36 Pawnee Brave
The Piper PA-36 Pawnee Brave is a specialty agricultural aircraft with space for a pilot only. It can reach speeds of up to 117 knots, and has a maximum capacity of 4,400 lbs. The aircraft was a development of the original Piper PA-36 Pawnee, and has a larger hopper, a more powerful engine and a better ventilation system. It first entered service in 1973. The most recent model was renamed the New Brave, and is currently being manufactured by WTA Incorporated.
The M-18 Dromader was first designed by PZL-Mielec, a Polish company, in collaboration with Rockwell International. Its aim was to produce an aircraft for the Western market that could be used for both agricultural purposes and fire fighting. It remains one of Poland's most successful export aircraft. It first flew in 1976, has a top speed of 128 knots and has a maximum takeoff capacity of 9,230 lbs. The aircraft has been sold to more than 200 countries, and is still in service.
Based in London, Ben Moresby has been writing since 2002. His eHow articles cover topics in culture, current affairs and travel. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of East Anglia (UK).