The M-18 Dromader agricultural aircraft has been one of Poland's most successful aircraft exports.
PZL-Mielec designed the Dromader in collaboration with Rockwell International in the US during the mid 1970s. From the outset the aim was to certificate the aircraft to western standards. The first prototype of the basic single seat M-18 first flew on August 27 1976, a second prototype flew that October. Poland awarded certification for the Dromader during September 1978, and series production began the following year.
The basic Dromader design was conventional, with power supplied by a nine cylinder radial engine, while the outer wing panels were based on those on the Rockwell Thrush Commander.
The basic single seat M-18 was in production for five years until 1984 when it was replaced by the two seat M-18A, but has been available to special order since. The two seat M-18A was developed to allow the carriage of either a mechanic or chemical loader to austere fields. In the meantime PZL-Mielec had developed a firebombing derivative which first flew in 1978. The M-18AS trainer has a second cockpit for flight instruction. Since 1996 the M-18B, with a 5300kg (11,684lb) max takeoff weight, has been the standard production model. The M-18BS is a two seat trainer based on the M-18B. The M-18C with 895kW (1200hp) Kalisz K-9 engine flew in 1995 but has not entered production.
In the USA, Melex (part owned by PZL-Mielec) developed a PT6A-45 turboprop development dubbed the M-18/T45 Turbine Dromader. The Turbine Dromader first flew during 1985 and the US FAA issued it a Supplementary Type Certificate in April 1986. Others have been converted with a PT6A-65, TPE331-10 or T53-L-7 turbine engine.
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