Above: File photo of two Thrush 510G aircraft, a standard model and one with a dual cockpit. Thrush photo.
(Originally published at 6 p.m. MDT December 27, 2017)
The state of Georgia’s Forestry Commission has purchased two Thrush 510G Switchback single engine air tankers (SEATs).
The 510G model was introduced by Thrush in 2012 featuring a redesign of everything forward of the firewall including a different engine, the 800 shp GE H80 turbine.
The version acquired by Georgia has a dual cockpit and control systems, unusual in a SEAT, but it enables the aircraft to serve in a training role for Georgia Forestry Commission pilots.
The “Switchback” part of the name is an option which means in addition to delivering 500 gallons of water or fire retardant, it has the ability to switch from agricultural spray duties to firefighting capabilities in a matter of minutes thanks to its unique fire gate delivery system. These were the first Switchbacks delivered by Thrush, even though they have sold more than 100 510G’s.
“We’re extremely proud to be adding the Switchback to our aerial firefighting fleet,” said Georgia Forestry Commission’s director, Chuck Williams. “It boasts many advantages for our firefighting efforts and heralds an exciting new chapter in our commitment to protect and conserve the more than 24 million acres of timber land across our state. You’ll see these aircraft deployed not just for rapid fire suppression – but also in the very important role of rapid fire detection, which can sometimes make all the difference in being able to contain a wildfire, versus having it become uncontrollable.”
Specifications of the 510G:
Working speed: 90-150
Stall speed as usually landed: 55 mph
Take-off distance at 10,500 pounds: 1,500 feet
Landing Distance as Usually Landed w/Reverse: 350 feet
Aircraft that are frequently used as crop dusters and single engine air tankers (SEATs) may be given to the government of Yemen to battle terrorists. BuzzFeed reports that models being considered are the Air Tractor AT-802U and Thrush. The two-seater aircraft would be equipped with laser-guided missiles and high-tech electronic intelligence equipment, as well as armor to protect the crew.
The U.S. considered using drones, but they are getting a bad reputation. Officials apparently decided on sending up to ten of the single engine aircraft to Yemen, at least in part because “even poorly trained Yemeni pilots could learn to fly them”.
According to a Central Command memorandum dated Feb. 3 and obtained by BuzzFeed, the “Precision Strike” program for Yemen would “greatly enhance counter terrorism (CT) objectives to support action against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The U.S. government says AQAP is a Yemeni-based group that has tried to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S., including the infamous failed effort by the “underwear bomber,” Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in 2009.
One choice for Yemen’s “Precision Strike” plane, according to documents and the sources, is a version of an “Air Tractor” plane called a 802U. It’s a hardy airplane, manufactured in Texas. The fuselage resembles a World War II Spitfire fighter plane, though it flies more slowly.
Asked about the Yemen project, Air Tractor Inc.’s president, Jim Hirsch, said, “I’m not at liberty to discuss that program.” Although the Air Tractor is widely used as an agriculture plane for crop spraying, the company makes a version it says is for “counterinsurgency operations,” and Air Tractor’s website bills it as “a true irregular warfare aircraft.”
The other plane in the running is a Thrush, which looks similar to the Air Tractor and is also usually used as a crop duster. It is manufactured in Georgia by Thrush Aircraft.