|Ag Cat G-164B|
The Grumman G-164 Ag Cat is a single-engine biplane agricultural aircraft, developed by Grumman in the 1950s.
The Ag Cat was the first aircraft specifically designed by a major aircraft company for agricultural aviation, and the first aircraft designed according to the regulations of Civil Aeronautics Manual Part 8, which had been written especially for agricultural aircraft.
In 1955, Grumman preliminary design engineers Joe Lippert and Arthur Koch proposed the design for a "purpose built" crop dusting airplane as a means of fulfilling a pressing need in the agricultural community as well as the perceived need for Grumman to diversify its product lines. The initial market survey indicated that 100 - 200 of this type could be sold each year. Lippert's initial proposal was made under the project name "Farmair 1000."
The first G-164, which was built by Grumman (N74054), was equipped with a Continental W670 Series 6A-16 powerplant. This ship accomplished its maiden flight on May 27, 1957, with Grumman test pilot Hank Kurt at the controls. This initial flight test consisted of three short familiarization hops with the take-off weight set at 3122 lbs and the centre of gravity at 31.2%. Flight tests 2 & 3, with test pilot Victor Eble, were accomplished on May 28, 1958, to evaluate the general flight characteristics. A total of 46 test flights were completed by the end of August 1958 with a general finding that this was a well-behaved aircraft with only minor refinements needed before production.
When the decision was made to authorize production, Leroy Grumman suggested marketing the aircraft under the name "The Grasshopper"; however, Dick Reade suggested "Ag-Cat" following Grumman's naming tradition using the suffix "-Cat" in aircraft names (e.g., F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat). Mr. Grumman agreed and the Grumman G-164 became the "Ag-Cat."
Large military orders prevented the production of the Ag-Cat at Grumman's Bethpage facility. Grumman's Board of Directors chose to subcontract the entire program to the Schweizer Aircraft Company of Elmira, New York. Initial production was through a contract between Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, and Grumman. The first Schweizer-built Ag-Cat, bearing registration number N10200 flew on October 17, 1958, under the control of Schweizer test pilot Clyde Cook. Full production began in January 1959 with Schweizer delivering 12 FAA certified airplanes to Grumman by March 1959. The FAA granted type certification on January 20, 1959.
The ownership of the Ag-Cat design has changed hands several times. Grumman transferred ownership to its commercial aircraft subsidiary, Grumman American, in 1973. A market feasibility study for a new agricultural aircraft (AgCat X) was completed by Grumman American in 1976. This study indicated that there was a potential market demand for more than 100 aircraft each year. The study also showed that most of the concerns expressed by agricultural aircraft operators were addressed by the AgCat C model. The Grumman American subsidiary, which also owned the Grumman Gulfstream design series, was sold to American Jet Industries in 1978.
From initial production through 1981, Schweizer built 2,455 aircraft under contract. In 1981 Schweizer bought the rights to the design and continued production under the name Schweizer Ag-Cat. Schweizer sold the design to Ag-Cat Corp. of Malden, Missouri in 1995.
Five model G-164B aircraft were produced and registered before Ag-Cat Corp. entered bankruptcy. One additional aircraft, a G-164BT500, is listed in the FAA registry as having been produced by Ag-Cat Corp., however no tail number was issued. This may have been an upgrade to an existing airframe.
In February 2001, the design was sold to Allied Ag-Cat Productions Inc. of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. Allied Ag-Cat are not producing new aircraft, although a related company operates a large fleet of Ag-Cats.
The basic airframe incorporates many safety innovations, including a pressurized cockpit to keep pesticides out, air conditioning and a fuselage structure that is designed to progressively collapse in the event of a collision. Lippert and Koch were recognized for their innovation in agricultural aircraft, being awarded the Puffer Award by Delta Air Lines in 1974.
Floats were approved for the aircraft in the early 1990s in Australia.
Data from Jane's Civil and Military Aircraft Upgrades 1994–95