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88/288 Aircraft, full size, Transavia Airtruk PL-12 Agricultural Airtruk, VH-TRN, made by Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd, 73 Station Road, Seven Hills, New South Wales, Australia, 1965. Click to enlarge.

Transavia PL-12 Airtruk VH-TRN made by Transavia Corp. Pty Ltd, Seven Hills, NSW, 1965

The Transavia PL-12 Airtruk is one of the most significant aircraft designed and manufactured in New South Wales in terms of numbers produced, with approximately 120 made in various versions. Designed by Luigi Pellarini and first built in 1965, the Airtruk was made for agricultural use and was ideal for crop dusting. There was a need for such an aircraft as after World War II many pilots found employment flying light aircraft for aerial crop dusting and spraying or making air drops of fodder in times of drought and flood. Many large pastoralists saw the advantages of air transport and bought small planes to save long days of travel over outback properties. The Transavia Airtruk looks unlike any other aircraft with its distinctive wing configuration and twin tail booms. The functional design enabled fast and easy loading while the high cabin ensured greater visibility. The aircraft could lift more than its own weight in useful load, and take-off and land over short distances in difficult terrain. Its futuristic design saw an Airtruk used in the 1985 Australian film "Mad Max III Beyond Thunderdome".

The bulk of the Airtruk manufacture was exported. The total production was achieved without Government assistance, although at least three submissions for financial support were presented to the Federal Government. Victa achieved the largest production run for aircraft manufactured in NSW with the Airtourer, making 169 units before production ceased in 1966.

Pellarini ranks as one of the most prolific aircraft designers in Australia. He designed the Fawcett 120, the PL-7 Kingsford Smith Aviation Services Air Tanker, the PL-11 Bennett or Waitomo Air Truck, the PL-12 Transavia Airtruk, the Victa R2 and the PL-13 Pellarini Air Jeep.

After the success of the original Airtruk a more powerful version, the T300 Skyfarmer, was produced. A version known as the PL-12U was constructed as a multi-purpose aircraft for passenger, cargo and ambulance roles; several of this type were purchased by the Thai Government for use in counter-insurgency operations. Another version, the T320, developed to use the Teledyne Tiara 6-320-2B engine, ceased after a short production run when manufacture of the Tiara engine ended. Total production, as reflected in the financial assistance submissions, was predicted at 85 aircraft. While the production run may have gone as high as 150 aircraft of all versions, 120 is a conservative estimate.

Margaret Simpson
Curator of Transport


Object No.


Object Statement

Aircraft, full size, Transavia Airtruk PL-12 Agricultural Airtruk, VH-TRN, made by Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd, 73 Station Road, Seven Hills, New South Wales, Australia, 1965

Physical Description

This aircraft is a single engine type with an unusual wing configuration, twin tail booms and high cabin. The primary structural elements comprise the hopper, the main undercarriage cross-beam and engine mount. The upper mainplanes are bolted to lugs on the hopper shoulders, and flight loads were transmitted through V-struts to the undercarriage crossbeam which is faired to form the short lower wing. By having the hopper integrated into the main structure enabled the aircraft to withstand greater impact forces in case of an accident.

The aircraft has two separate tail units attached by their supporting booms to the centreline of each wing. Horizontal and vertical tail surfaces remained clean of the slip-stream. The wide gap of 3.5 metres (11 foot 6 inches) between the tail units enabled a loading truck to move in and out from the aircraft on full lock.

The hopper is made of aircraft quality steel and aluminium alloy. The rest of the structure is primarily aircraft quality steel. The wings, booms and tail units are aluminium alloy. Cowls and fairings are moulded resin-bonded fibreglass. The hopper is coated inside with epoxy resin to protect it from corrosive chemicals and to seal it for carrying liquids.

Power plant: Continental Type 10-520-D
Take off power: 300 bhp
Take off rpm: 2850
Maximum continuous rpm: 2700
Propeller: McCauley Type D2A34C58/90AT-2
Propeller diameter: 223 cm (88 inches)
Wingspan: 12 metres (39 feet 3.5 inches)
Height (ground to cabin top): 2.8 metres (9 feet 2 inches)
Hopper capacity: 36 cubic feet
Fuel tank: 25 gallons
Passenger capacity: one person in rear cabin with hopper load or 2 passengers with no hopper load.



2794 mm


11976 mm


6350 mm


793 kg




Designed by Luigi Pellarini, the PL-12 Airtruk was conceived as a rugged utility aircraft with the primary function of agricultural spraying and crop dusting. Airtruks were mass produced by Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of construction company Transfield Pty Ltd at its plant at in the Sydney suburb of Seven Hills, New South Wales.

The design progenitors of the Airtruk were the Kingsford Smith Aviation Services Pty Ltd PL-7 Tanker, first flown on 21 September 1956, and the Bennett PL-11 Airtrucks, two of which were built at Waitomo in New Zealand based on the Tanker and using war surplus North American Harvard parts. The PL-7 and PL-11 aircraft were also designed by Luigi Pellarini.

In the early 1960s Luigi Pellarini approached Transfield Pty Ltd to assist him to bring to production the PL-12 aircraft he had designed. Despite the fact that Transfield was a steel fabrication and construction company, one of its Directors, Mr Franco Belgiorno-Nettis, was interested in aviation, having wanted to join the Italian Air Force as a young man but considered too short to fulfil the recruiting requirements. In 1964 Transfield had moved into aviation with the importation of a Siai-Marchetti FN-333 Riviera amphibious aircraft, for which it hoped to become the Australian distributor. However, no sales of the Riviera were made. It is unclear if Transavia was formed as a response to Pellarini's approach (with the Riviera sales seen as a side activity) or if the Riviera sales were to be the mainstay of Transavia activities, with the Pellarini proposal accepted because of the lack of Riviera orders.

The aircraft received an Australian Design Award and Prince Philip Prize Certificate of Merit in 1970.



After the first prototype Airtuk had been destroyed in structural strength and safety testing, the second prototype, VH-TRN, was flown for the first time on 15 April 1965 from Bankstown Airport. The test pilot was New Zealander Neil Johnston, who had flown the PL-11 Airtrucks in New Zealand. Production began in 1966, and the prototype remained in use until withdrawn on 3 March 1969.

According to a letter from Bill Bannister, Acting Manager of the Technology Restoration Society (a voluntary organisation which assisted the Museum with the acquisition and/or restoration of certain objects in the 1980s) to the then Museum Director, Dr. Lindsay Sharp, VH-TRN was repurchased by Transavia after the aircraft had completed its allotted airframe hours and was rebuilt for the Museum. It was in the company's ownership on 20 January 1984 when it was noted as offered to the Museum in fully restored condition. Nothing is currently known about VH-TRN between its withdrawal from service date of 3 March 1969, its 'repurchase' by Transavia and its offer to the Museum on January 20, 1984.


Credit Line

Gift of Transfield Nsw Pty Ltd, 1988

Acquisition Date

29 February 1988

Cite this Object


Transavia PL-12 Airtruk VH-TRN made by Transavia Corp. Pty Ltd, Seven Hills, NSW, 1965 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 October 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Transavia PL-12 Airtruk VH-TRN made by Transavia Corp. Pty Ltd, Seven Hills, NSW, 1965 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.