Auster Aeroplanes B8 Agricola
The aircraft was designed specifically for aerial topdressing in New Zealand.
The prototype, ZK-BMI, was first flown by the Auster company from Rearsby in Leicestershire on December 8, 1955; it was the first of 15 Agricolas laid down, although only seven were actually completed. Another three were later built up in New Zealand from spares.
The Agricola is a simple aeroplane, built of welded steel tube with fabric covering aft of the front spar, except for a small portion at the root of the outer wings which is metal to with-stand drag loads. A 1,680 lbs capacity hopper is situated behind and below the pilot, with a trunk leading to it from the hopper mouth at the top of the cockpit. A separate 173 US gallon tank loca-ted in the starboard wing root was used on the spray version to give a quicker changeover to liquid application. The spray bars were located inside the wing, with the nozzles protuding behind the trailing edge.
New Zealand first saw the Agricola in October 1956 when the local agents, the Bristol Aeroplane Company, imported the second aircraft, ZK-BMJ, for a demonstration tour of the country. But despite an extensive showing of the aircraft there was little enthusiasm for the type, and it faced stiff competition from types such as the FU24 and Cessna 180 which were also just coming onto the market. Its tube and fabric construction, which was intended for ease of repair and maintenance in much the same way as the Tiger Moth it was designed to replace, was seen by many operators as a retrograde step, and they preferred to go the modern, all-metal way.
As well, the Agricola required a number of modifications before it was able to go into commercial use, and topdressing firms were not prepared to wait around until these were sorted out.
One aspect that makes it unique and which considerably eases the pilot workload is the hydraulically-operated hopper doors and flaps. These are run off an engine-driven pump and during the course of the day’s topdressing save the pilot a considerable amount of work by not having to continually pull levers during sowing runs and landings. Originally powered by a 240 hp Continental flat six engine, the remaining Agricolas were re-engined with the 260 hp version.
The single seat enclosed cockpit was originally entered by a door opening over the top of the cockpit, but this was replaced by a forward swinging side door to stop superphos-phate entering the cockpit. There is also a side-by-side two-seat cabin just aft of the hopper trunk with a rearward facing bench seat. The rear fuselage is sealed to stop dust and superphosphate getting inside, and special filters are fitted to counter any changes in humidity and atmospheric pressure. The rear fuselage also provides another example of the Agricola’s simplicity, the nylon-coated control cables for the elevator and rudder which ran along the outside of the fabric.
Engine: Continental, 240 hp or 260 hp.
Span: 42 ft 00 in
Length: 28 ft 01 in
Height: 8 ft 5 in
Wing area: 254 sq.ft
Empty weight: 1920 lb
Loaded weight: 3,675 lb
Wheel track: 14 ft 4 in