Manufacturing Today - Spring 2011 - (Page 110)

Air Tractor / HQ: Olney, Texas / 2010 sales: $50 million / Employees: 200+ / Specialty: Agricultural aviation manufacturing / Leland Snow, owner/founder: “I believe that Air Tractor will achieve additional goals while I’m still around.” air tractor builds the most diverse line of planes for the agriculture market, but also serves the military. High and Mighty a pioneering spirit helps air tractor dominate the agricultural aviation market. by chris petersen To say the agricultural aviation manufacturing sector owes a debt to Leland Snow is putting it lightly. Ever since he began building his first prototype plane as a student at Texas A&M University in 1951, Snow has been advancing the industry by developing planes specifically engineered for the demands of crop dusting. Snow, founder of Texas-based manufacturer Air Tractor, says his work began the first time he flew a crop dusting plane himself. “I recognized that we needed airplanes designed specifically for agricultural aviation,” Snow explains. Today, Air Tractor builds the 110 SPRING 2011 world’s most diverse line of planes engineered for the needs of agriculture. These planes carry tanks of 400 to 800 gallons, and can be adapted for use in firefighting and military applications. Snow says the company built 119 planes in 2010 and expects to build 123 in 2011. Expert Knowledge Snow’s consistent focus on agricultural aviation has been key to Air Tractor’s success through the years, giving the company the edge in developing aircraft that fit the market’s very specific needs. When Snow began flying crop dusters in the early 1950s while studying aeronautical engineering, crop dusters were typically World War II surplus planes retrofitted with more powerful engines. This was necessary because of the added weight the chemical tanks added to the body of the plane. “Think of it in terms of an agricultural plane being like a big truck that can fly,” Snow says. “They’re strong, they’re powerful – they’re nothing similar to the general aviation planes that carry people.” The knowledge Air Tractor has accumulated in developing these highly specialized aircraft continues to help it compete against other manufacturers that simply modify existing designs. For example, Air Tractor recently completed work on the development of a massive turbine engine that has received interest from a major manufacturer, according to Snow. He says despite the rela-

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - Spring 2011

Manufacturing Today - Spring 2011
Business Value
Supply Chain
Patriot Forge Co.
Reading Bakery Systems
The South African Mint Co.
GCX Corp.
Jay Industries Inc.
Johnson Electric Coil Co.
Certified Transmission
Olhausen Billiards
Pace Industrues
RTI Claro
The Testor Corp.
Restonic Matresses
Advanced Automation
Anadigics Inc.
Hermes Cones & Snack Manufacturers
JR Automation Technologies LLC
Prodomax Automation Inc.
Stafford Manufacturing Corp.
New England Ropes
Berger Paints Trinidad Ltd.
Air Tractor
Artisans Inc.
Bermingham Foundation Solutions
Bowers Manufacturing Co.
Ferti Technologies
Industrial Acoustics
Morton Industries
Presstek Inc.
Ranco Fertiservice Inc.
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Manufacturing Today - Spring 2011