In 1988, Dad got a contract with Field Air Australia and was flying AT301's out of Ballarat. Whilst there, the Norman Aircraft company (a subsidary of Britten Norman) bought out their new and experimental 'Fieldmaster', which was the first 'purpose built turbine agricultural aeroplane'. I know they had high hopes of selling many in Australia and no doubt NZ and I believe they were trying to get Field Air to act as agents.
Apparently though, the plane had issues and there was no interest in Austrlia. I believe the fuselage of this one is now lying wingless and engineless on the isle of Wight.
Norman aircraft never really sold any designs, and I believe only 6 Fieldmasters were produced.
Post by fletcherfu24 on Mar 31, 2009 21:23:28 GMT 12
Thats really how the Cresco should have been layed out,hopper infront of the pilot,it is a lot safer for the pilot when it all goes pear shaped.The hopper was also an intergrel part of the fuselage in the Feildmaster,and not a large seperate container as in the Cresco/Fletcher,which would have made it a much stronger aircraft.
I have to agree with the comment on the strength of the aircraft. It was designed with a sense of purpose and ruggedness. Some of the features though did cause some interest to wane, such as internallymounted spray equipment in the wings which at the time did not suit Fieldair (Aust) who were spreading a lot of urea and fertiliser in granulated form.
The perception was that the spray equipment and pump would always be on the aircraft and therefore dead weight when not in use.
Ground handling also left a bit to be desired with a bit of bounce and porpoising noticeable when power was applied. C of G concerns were also noted, as well as the battle between a turbo prop and a high drag aeroplane. Forward vision was also lacking, in terms of operating off strips in the King Country for example, you would probably have to do the old FAA corsair trick off flying a curve into the approach.
If it had been a couple of years earlier, it may have been a success but with Fieldair acting as the agents for Air Tractors, the development of the AT402 meant that they were already receiving turboprop aircraft which had been proven in the piston field.
I have heard the design is now in production in China?
Poor Norman aircraft, the turbo Fiercracker (the Norman entry into the RAF turbo lead in trainer competition) looked right and from all accounts was a solid design. It also did not get far...
The forward visibility was according to dad's notes very poor, especially for a tricycle wheeled undercarriage. On the rought strips around Australia and NZ, I can imagine many would have eventually collected a fence or fertiliser bin at some point.
I don't want to say though that the design was entirely flawed, it certainly had thought and pushed some boundaries at the time, but like every agricultural aircraft, you have to try and balance as many difficult factors as you can and priorities these. Norman probably thought that safety and versatility were more critical than visibility.
I remember at the time it was quite unusual to see a turbine, Fieldair at the time operated radial engined Air Tractors. I think Avgas was about 65 cents a litre or so at the time, so no one cared much for an expensive turbine that used unavailable through the pump Jet A1... how times have changed