Conrad Barlow
Harbor City, California
Inducted — 2000

An icon in the aviation industry, there’s probably not another company that better reflects the growth and resolute of ag aviation than Transland, Inc. And, no less to the credit of the success of Transland and mentor of that company than the man known worldwide as Conrad Barlow, Mr. Transland.

Born in England in September 1920, Conrad Barlow served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an Aircraftsman, Second Class (AC2). This was the beginnings in his youth, that lay the foreground for the innovative designs of aerial application dispersal equipment, with his modification to the seat of an F4U for an intelligence officer to accompany the pilot.

After the war, Conrad’s fledgling career placed him in New York working in export sales with Smith-Kirkpatrick, a surplus aircraft and Franklin engine supplier. During this tenure, Conrad met George Wing, owner of High Shear Rivet Tool Company, inventor of the High Shear aircraft rivet. Wing, wanting to expand the use of his rivet, decided to make aluminum truck bodies, thus the name Transland. This venture didn’t work, prompting Transland to design and build aluminum hoppers and spreaders for N3N aircraft and become Transland Aircraft.

While in the ag aircraft hopper business, Wing became interested in designing a new ag aircraft. He bought the rights to the Ag-1 from Texas A&M and from that design built three Ag-2s. He also began building aircraft dispersal equipment to compliment his hopper building business. From this, Wing needed to develop foreign markets for his Ag-2 and dispersal equipment, here is where Conrad Barlow enters the picture as salesperson for Transland Aircraft.

Conrad’s key duty at this time (December 1958) was to develop a market for the Ag-2. The aircraft was large, powered by a P&W R-985, 450 hp. Later a conversion was developed for the P&W R-1340, 600 hp. Transland Aircraft exhibited the Ag-2 at several trade shows in its marketing attempts. One of the aircraft was lost on a return flight from the World Congress of Aviation in Las Vegas, Nevada. After this, Transland Aircraft decided to abandon the Ag-2 project focusing more on the development and marketing of ag aircraft dispersal equipment.

The name synonymous with Transland is Swathmaster; developed by Joe Sellers in the late 1950s, a dual purpose applicator for both dry and wet material, still in use to this day. After the demise of the Ag-2, Conrad hit the road selling the Swathmaster for $1,500, demonstrating it with a movie film of a Stearman dusting.

In 1960 Conrad met Leland Snow at a Texas ag pilot convention, where he negotiated a deal to build the gate boxes for Snow Aeronautical. That alliance still stands to this day. However, gate boxes are now built for all U.S. ag aircraft, along with the Transland Firebombing gate, specially designed to answer the needs of today’s fire bomber ag aircraft. This gate box was the first to allow the ag operator to incorporate both firebombing work and normal applications without a change to the system.

Also, from Conrad’s earlier work with gate boxes, Transland offered the first emergency dump system, saving untold lives in the ag aviation industry, worldwide. This gate box became so successful the unpatented design was copied by Cessna, Piper, Dromader and Embraer!

Conrad Barlow has always been an active participant in the ag aviation industry, not only as a supplier and designer that responds to the industry’s needs, but as a dedicated individual who has served the industry relentlessly. From 1968-1972, as a charter member of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, he served as its Exhibit Chairman, expanding the number of exhibitors from 22 in 1968 to 118 in 1973, then resigning from the chairmanship in 1974 after a job well done. Conrad has received the 1972 NAAA Presidential Citation, 1973 NAAA Related Industry Award, 1974 NAAA Outstanding Service Award, 1978 NAAA Delta “Puffer” Award, 1984 CaAAA Allied Industry Pioneer Award, 1988 CaAAA Outstanding Service Plaque, 1998 CaAAA Outstanding Service Plaque, 1999 MsAAA Allied Industry Associate of the Year and more recently in 2000 the NAAA Delta Airlines “Puffer” Award and induction into the National Agricultural Aviation Hall of Fame.

For the vast majority of today’s worldwide fleet of ag aircraft, somewhere installed upon their airframes, there is a manufactured or copied Transland component. The name Transland, Inc. is known worldwide, along with its driving force, Conrad Barlow.

Editor’s Note: Conrad Barlow passed away in June 2004, about four years after this article was written. 

NAAHOF Inductees is a series of articles featuring the inductees to the National Agricultural Aviation Museum’s Hall of Fame. Although some of the information is limited, including in some cases unknown induction years, it is the best compilation available from The National Agricultural Aviation Museum, the NAAHOF Nominations Board of Directors, the NAA Museum Board of Directors and Mabry Anderson’s book, Low and Slow.

Each month Ag Air Update will feature one or more individuals honored in the National Agricultural Aviation’s Hall of Fame, how many, depending on the information available about the individual. Enjoy reading about the history and the history makers of ag aviation.