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.
Curator of Transport